Crime

Friday, August 5, 2016

Vermont Supreme Court Dismisses Case Against 'Jailhouse Lawyer'

Posted By on Fri, Aug 5, 2016 at 4:14 PM

Vermont Superior Court in Bennington - JANA SLEEMAN
  • Jana Sleeman
  • Vermont Superior Court in Bennington
The Vermont Supreme Court on Friday dismissed charges filed by Bennington County prosecutors against an inmate accused of improperly filing legal papers while volunteering as a "jailhouse attorney."

In a unanimous decision, justices said authorities had no legal basis to charge Martin "Serendipity" Morales, an inmate at Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility in Rutland who helped at least five inmates file legal briefs.

In February 2016, the Bennington County State's Attorney's Office, with the help of the Vermont Attorney General's Office, invoked an obscure statute to charge Morales, who is serving time for burglary and domestic assault, with practicing law without a license.

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

McAllister Sex Assault Trial Postponed as Election Nears

Posted By on Thu, Aug 4, 2016 at 10:58 AM

Sen. Norm McAllister on the floor of the Senate in January - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR/FILE
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur/file
  • Sen. Norm McAllister on the floor of the Senate in January
Sen. Norm McAllister won’t be in court watching jury selection on primary election day after all. 

The Franklin County representative’s sexual assault trial has been postponed from next week, a court clerk said Thursday.

The prosecutor requested the delay for family health reasons, said McAllister’s son, Heath, who added that the senator isn’t happy about the change in schedule. A new trial date hasn't been set but is likely to be sometime in late fall, his son said.

“We wanted it done. We’ve wanted it done all along,” Heath McAllister said. The senator found out about the delay two days ago, his son said.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Vermont’s Revenge Porn Law Under First Amendment Challenge

Posted By on Tue, Aug 2, 2016 at 9:33 AM

Vermont Superior Court in Bennington - JANA SLEEMAN
  • Jana Sleeman
  • Vermont Superior Court in Bennington
One year after it was implemented, Vermont’s “revenge porn” law, which forbids the distribution of sexually explicit images without the subject’s consent, is under legal threat.

A Bennington County judge recently threw out what appears to be the first criminal case brought under the law, citing concerns about its constitutionality. The case is likely to be heard by the Vermont Supreme Court.

Defense attorneys and other critics of the law, which was passed in response to concerns about vengeful ex-lovers posting explicit images of their former partners on social media, warned lawmakers in 2015 that it could run afoul of First Amendment protections. Previously, such cases could be heard in civil court, but there were no criminal penalties.

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Judicial Conduct Board Investigating Assistant Judge in Windham County

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2016 at 2:42 PM

A home formerly owned by Catherine Tolaro and left to Paul Kane in her will - GOOGLE
  • Google
  • A home formerly owned by Catherine Tolaro and left to Paul Kane in her will
Update, August 1, 2016, at 12:10 p.m. with information from Paul Kane's written response to the complaint.

The Vermont Judicial Conduct Board has initiated a disciplinary proceeding against a Windham County assistant judge accused of mismanaging the estate of an elderly woman who had Alzheimer's disease.

In a 13-page complaint, a conduct board attorney cites allegations made in a probate court case that Assistant Judge Paul Kane drained the estate of Catherine Tolaro, who died in 2014 at age 86.

Kane and his late wife, Marie, took Tolaro into their Westminster home in 2009. She was then 82 and showed signs of dementia, the complaint states. The couple gained power of attorney for Tolaro in 2010.

In subsequent Windsor County Probate Court filings, an attorney appointed to represent Tolaro's estate alleged that Kane used that to siphon away Tolaro's assets. 

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Authorities Make Mass Drug Arrests in Winooski Neighborhood

Posted By on Fri, Jul 22, 2016 at 5:16 PM

U.S. Attorney Eric Miller is joined by local and federal law enforcement officials during a press conference in Burlington. - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • U.S. Attorney Eric Miller is joined by local and federal law enforcement officials during a press conference in Burlington.
Federal authorities on Friday charged eight people living in a three-block stretch of Winooski with helping out-of-state drug dealers set up a large heroin and cocaine distribution ring.

The defendants, seven of whom were arrested Friday, allowed dealers to use their apartments along a stretch of Malletts Bay Avenue, just a few blocks from the downtown Winooski traffic circle, authorities said.

U.S. Attorney Eric Miller said that law enforcement is increasingly focused on arresting "local facilitators": Vermonters who provide housing, transportation, links to customers and other support to out-of-state drug dealers who set up shop in local communities.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

'Incoherent' Rifle-Wielding Man Posed Dilemma for Police

Posted By on Thu, Jul 14, 2016 at 6:25 PM

A cyclist identified as Malcolm Tanner at North Winooski and Riverside Avenues in May. - COURTESY: DAN BARNES
  • Courtesy: Dan Barnes
  • A cyclist identified as Malcolm Tanner at North Winooski and Riverside Avenues in May.
Burlington residents flooded police with phone calls in recent weeks to report a man was bicycling with a rifle slung over his shoulder. Officers who tried to talk to him found him to be "incoherent," and he insisted that laws do not apply to him, according to court documents.

"A man with mental health issues riding around the city on a bike with an unconcealed rifle and ammunition makes people nervous, because it should," Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo said.

For weeks, Burlington police say, they were forced to leave Malcolm Tanner, 52, alone, because he did not seem to be breaking any laws. Wednesday, with the help of federal authorities, he was finally arrested.

Police had repeatedly approached Tanner, who was living in a homeless encampment in woods in the Old North End but does not appear to have any significant local ties.

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Monday, July 11, 2016

Freed Inmate Sues Bennington Police, Alleging Racial Bias

Posted By on Mon, Jul 11, 2016 at 2:47 PM

DANIEL FISHEL
  • Daniel Fishel
Updated at 5:06 p.m. Tuesday with comments from attorney David Williams. 

A black Brooklyn man whose drug conviction was overturned by the Vermont Supreme Court has filed a federal lawsuit against Bennington police, saying the department engaged in racial discrimination by targeting him in a 2013 traffic stop.

Shamel Alexander, who was freed in February after serving nearly three years in prison, alleges in a U.S. District Court lawsuit that officers had no evidence to justify a drug investigation and targeted him because of his race.

Alexander traveled from Albany, N.Y., to Bennington in a taxi on the night of July 11, 2013, and asked to be dropped at a Chinese restaurant downtown.

While stopped at a red light, the cab driver asked another driver, who turned out to be off-duty Bennington police detective Peter Urbanowicz, for directions to the restaurant. Urbanowicz directed them to the Lucky Dragon, then alerted Bennington police officer Andrew Hunt, who happened to be nearby, that the cab "would probably be a good stop if [Hunt] could find him doing something wrong."

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Friday, July 8, 2016

After Dallas Ambush, Burlington Cops Curtail Solo Patrols

Posted By on Fri, Jul 8, 2016 at 9:17 AM

FILE: OLIVER PARINI
  • File: Oliver parini
Updated July 8, 2016, at 10:27 a.m. with comments from the Vermont State Police.

The Burlington Police Department is temporarily suspending solo officer patrols in response to the Thursday night attack on Dallas police that killed five officers and wounded seven.

Police Chief Brandon del Pozo said he is concerned about the “prospect of copycat attacks” on local police.

Dallas police said three suspects are in custody and one is dead after police were targeted by sniper fire while monitoring a nonviolent protest of police killings of black men across the country.

“America is protected by a patchwork of 18,000 police agencies, and a repeat incident in one of them is not unfathomable,” del Pozo said.

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Friday, July 1, 2016

ACLU Criticizes Heavy-Handed Policing of Rainbow Family Gathering

Posted By on Fri, Jul 1, 2016 at 3:21 PM

U.S. Forest Service employees talk with participants at the Rainbow Family gathering. - CALEB KENNA
  • Caleb Kenna
  • U.S. Forest Service employees talk with participants at the Rainbow Family gathering.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont is criticizing the U.S. Forest Service and law enforcement agencies for what it calls overzealous policing of the Rainbow Family of Living Light's gathering in the Green Mountain National Forest.
 
The ACLU says it has been inundated with complaints from Rainbow campers that police are running checkpoint-like stops, detaining people for minor infractions and subjecting them to drug searches without reasonable suspicion.

"We've also been told that people are pressured to consent to searches of their person, vehicle or belongings; that they are subjected to abusive and prolonged questioning by state, local and federal law enforcement; and that citations ... for petty federal offenses on public federal lands are being issued," the ACLU said in a statement.

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Financial Firm to Pay Vermont $5.95 Million in Jay Peak Case

Posted By on Thu, Jun 30, 2016 at 12:12 PM

A poster charts a web of financial transactions related to the EB-5 projects. Also shown: Attorney General Bill Sorrell, Gov. Peter Shumlin, Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Susan Donegan and Secretary of Commerce Pat Moulton. - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • A poster charts a web of financial transactions related to the EB-5 projects. Also shown: Attorney General Bill Sorrell, Gov. Peter Shumlin, Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Susan Donegan and Secretary of Commerce Pat Moulton.
The Department of Financial Regulation on Thursday announced it reached a $5.95 million settlement with financial firm Raymond James & Associates in connection with the alleged Jay Peak Resorts investor fraud. 

DFR said the settlement stems from misconduct in Raymond James' Miami office. That's where Jay Peak Resort co-owner Ariel Quiros held several accounts. The Securities and Exchange Commission says he used the accounts in a web of transactions to defraud EB-5 investors and misappropriate more than $200 million. 

Raymond James allowed Quiros to inappropriately transfer $13 million in EB-5 investor funds to purchase Jay Peak, and failed to obtain documentation establishing Quiros' control over the investors' funds, among other violations, according to the settlement.

The bulk of the settlement money — $4.5 million — will be used to compensate investors who claim they were defrauded, DFR said. Under the EB-5 program, foreign investors offer a minimum of $500,000 for projects in exchange for green cards.

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