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UVM Seeks Dismissal of LaTulippe Lawsuit 

Inside Track

Without media fanfare, the University of Vermont has quietly asked Judge William K. Sessions III to throw out Corey LaTulippe’s infamous hockey hazing lawsuit.

In papers filed late last month in U.S. District Court in Burlington, UVM moved for “summary judgment.” The school’s lawyers argue it’s a waste of time to proceed with the case in the wake of the sworn depositions LaTulippe and his mother, Brenda LaTulippe, gave in early May. The evidence, they claim, now refutes the claims made by the former wannabe Catamount goalie.

On December 10, the Hockey Hazing story erupted as Mr. LaTulippe filed a sizzling, X-rated lawsuit in federal court. He named as defendants the university, President Judith Ramaley, Mike Gilligan, the men’s hockey coach, Richard Farnham, the athletic director and seven team members. The lawsuit was so hot, Gov. Howard Dean immediately jumped onto the UVM ice with both skates, and he brought Attorney General Bill Sorrell with him. The following month President Ramaley canceled the 1999-2000 hockey season when she learned the players had lied to school officials and the investigators they’d hired. Bad boys!

For all the money in the world, the best PR firm on Earth couldn’t have gotten more national publicity for Vermont’s state university. Unfortunately, all of it was bad.

But like the wind, things change. Eventually the truth gets out. On May 3, Ritchie Berger, UVM’s hired-gun attorney, was finally able to question Corey LaTulippe under oath. During two days of persistent questioning by Berger, Mr. LaTulippe admitted that several of the charges made in his blockbuster lawsuit were simply untrue. And the now-famous UVM dropout admitted he knew they were untrue when his attorneys, Gail Westgate and Mary Kehoe, filed the lawsuit. Corey also admitted he had lied to the attorney general’s investigators. Money sure makes people do strange and nasty things.

According to the transcript of his deposition, LaTulippe told Mr. Berger that he had never been “forced” to use a fake ID to go drinking with the boys. That he had never been “forced” to turn over his credit card to pay for a team outing in Maine. That he never really believed he was going to be forced to have carnal knowledge of a four-legged animal that produces wool and goes baa. And most important of all, LaTulippe admitted under oath he didn’t really believe he was cut from the team for complaining about hazing to university officials, as he had claimed in the lawsuit. The Williston teenager admitted to Mr. Berger he simply wasn’t as good as the other three goalies competing for positions on the UVM team.

What was lost in the media blizzard of reported binge drinking, puking, naked push-ups and wee-wee holding was the truth. The reputations of good and decent people were smeared. Back then, the air was supercharged by the specifics of the gross initiation rituals of the prevailing sports culture.

Five months later, under a summer sun, the record is clear that the university responded within 24 hours to the very first oblique and non-specific allegation of hazing made by LaTulippe’s first lawyer, Gail Westgate.

Five months later, the record indicates Corey LaTulippe had no interest whatsoever in pursuing a UVM education. What he did have was a burning desire to play big-time ice hockey at any cost.

These days Mr. LaTulippe is on his third attorney, Scot Kline, a former Chittenden County state’s attorney. Scot used to be known as Scot “Decline” in law enforcement circles for his reluctance to prosecute cases that were anything but a sure thing. But at present, LaTulippe’s chances of getting a far six-figure settlement aren’t looking real good. Given his admission of making false allegations, Corey has about as much chance of soaking UVM for cash as he has of winning the Stanley Cup. Mr. Kline is on vacation this week and unavailable for comment.

Wedding Bells

Turns out the biggest political event Saturday was not Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords’ Shelburne-to-Rutland whistle-stop campaign kick-off. All you had to do was compare guest lists, and it was obvious the wedding of State Sen. Vince Illuzzi (R-Essex/Orleans) was the hot political ticket of the day. Lola Aiken was there. So was State Sen. John Bloomer, from Jeezum Jim’s hometown of Rutland (please don’t tell the Rutland Herald). Even the President was there! No, not him, rather UVM Prez Judith Ramaley.

In a “traditional” marriage service at Ira Allen, Vince the Prince, immigrant’s son and King of the Northeast Kingdom, took as his princess the tall, tan and beautiful Eileen Maher of Derby Line. Essex County Assistant Judge Alan Hodgdon presided.

State Sen. Bill Doyle (R-Washington) read from Genesis — the passage about how Adam lost his rib, and you know what happened next.

State Sen. Dick McCormack (D-Windsor) sang “Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?” a cappella.

And a former Statehouse legend, Timothy Corcoran, currently the Bennington town clerk, read from Corinthians — “…and the most important of these is love.”

About 200 guests later celebrated the occasion aboard The Spirit of Ethan Allen II on a glorious, bipartisan cruise into the depths of Willsboro Bay on the New York side of Lake Champlain. Everyone was simultaneously struck by the unusual guest list spanning Vermont’s political spectrum. Left, right and center were present and accounted for. From Democrats like Ed Flanagan and Sens. Elizabeth Ready and Jim Leddy to Republicans like Sens. Julius Canns and Jim Greenwood, and Mary Hahn Beerworth from Vermont Right to Life. Rep. Al Perry’s dance band set the tempo.

And the Fourth Estate was well represented, too. Besides yours truly and Paula Routly, Seven Days co-publisher, Rich Cowperthwait of St. Albans’ WWSR and The Burlington Free Press, Susan Smallheer, of the Rutland Herald and Dave Gram of the Associated Press witnessed history.

Bride and groom are off to Italy and Greece for their honeymoon.

Escape From the Dog Pound?

Rep. Michael Flaherty of South Burlington made it official this week. He’s hanging up his spikes after three terms in Montpeculiar. “I’m turning 65,” he told us. “It’s time to move on.” Flaherty was the unofficial leader of the Blue Dog Democrats, that feisty band of about 15 moderate-to-conservative Democrats who inhabited the House. The Blue Dogs came to prominence after the 1998 post-Act 60 election that cut into the comfortable liberal Democrat majority. All of a sudden the guys that run the show — Speaker Michael Obuchowski and Rep. John Tracy, the Democrat leader — couldn’t ignore the moderates in their caucus if they wanted to get anything passed.

After being ignored for two terms, Flaherty and his colleagues were suddenly recognized and their views sought out. But the Blue Dogs marched to the beat of Gov. Howard Dean and they formed a block that stymied the liberal leadership.

Flaherty grew up a Red Sox fan. Ted Williams was his hero. He told Seven Days Monday he wanted to go out like Ted Williams. You see, Ted Williams hit a home run in his last Major League at-bat. It actually came with two games left on the schedule. He sat out the last two games, said Flaherty.

Mike Flaherty hit what he considers his home run at the Statehouse in the closing innings of the session. He led the fight to defeat the bill that would have moved Vermont down the road to regulating prescription drug prices. “A bad bill,” said Flaherty. It was “unconstitutional,” he said, and “would have put Vermont’s only drug wholesaler out of business.”

So far, two other Blue Dogs are joining Flaherty in retirement: Rene Blanchard of Essex and Hank Gretkowski of Burlington. We’ll miss ’em one and all, though Obie and Tracy sure as hell won’t.

A few Blue Dogs, however, will return to the Montpeculiar pound next January, and it’ll be Rep. Mike Vinton of Colchester’s job to keep them in top condition.

Poor Howard

Gov. Howard Dean is getting it from all sides. Progressive Party candidate Anthony Pollina was sticking it to him in Saturday’s Gay Pride parade in Burlap. Tony the Prog distributed literature reminding everyone Dr. Dean was the “uncomfortable” one after December’s Vermont Supreme Court ruling. And Tony the Prog reminds everyone Dean’s the guy who signed the civil-unions law in the “closet.”

But wait a minute. There’s our governor highlighted on the cover of The Advocate, the nation’s premier gay and lesbian newsmagazine. The Advocate touts Ho-Ho as “The Governor Who Risked his Career For Same-Sex Unions.” And inside there’s an interview with Dean under the headline, “Profile In Courage.”

Poor Howard.

Media Notes I

In local TV news land, the spring Nielsen ratings are out and WPTZ (NBC) continues on top. Ch. 5 continues in first place in the Metro area with an average 48 share at 6 p.m. and a 43 share on the late news. Big numbers. The share number reflects the percentage of turned-on TV sets tuned into a particular station at a particular time. In the larger DMA market area (statewide plus bits of N.Y. and N.H.), WCAX (CBS) pulls out a 31-26 win over WPTZ at 6 p.m., but WPTZ gets its nose back in front at 11 p.m. 27-25.

Hearst-Argyle, Ch. 5’s owner, operates 27 network affiliate stations across the country. Places like Boston, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Albuquerque and Sacramento. Chances are if you’re hooked on Ch. 5 out of Plattsburgh/Burlington, you’ll find something like it on the motel TV in Cincinnati, New Orleans and Omaha, too. Hearst-Argyle’s footprint covers 17.5 percent of U.S. households.

WVNY (ABC) and their “new kids on the block” news operation — first anniversary coming up in September — remains in the single digits. Their best score is a 4 share in the Metro. “M*A*S*H” reruns would likely top that. Station manager Larry Delia told Seven Days that viewer feedback remains positive. “We’re not going to change a thing, because we know our product is doing well.” Persistence is his key.

Anybody catch the two-headed kitty-cat story WVNY ran the other night? Truly amazing!

Nationally, Mr. Delia hit the big-time last week on the front page of The Wall Street Journal — “How the Top Networks Are Turning the Tables on Their Affiliates.” Larry made the story’s lede:

Larry Delia never expected WVNY in Burlington, Vt., to be at ground zero in the war between the big networks and their television station affiliates.

But that’s where Larry is.

Ground zero. Low man on the network totem pole.

As the general manager of a weak ABC affiliate, Mr. Delia was toast when it came time to renegotiate his affiliation deal this spring. ABC threatened to drop the station — a loss that would have been devastating for WVNY — and Mr. Delia got the message.

The message was the equivalent of a punch in the mouth. Henceforth, instead of the network writing a check to the affiliate every year, the network has decided the money will begin flowing in the opposite direction. According to the WSJ, in five years WVNY will pony up $1 million to ABC for the privilege of remaining on the ABC roster.

The WSJ also talked to Stuart “Red” Martin, founder and president of WCAX. Red’s Vermont shop has been with CBS for 45 years. He told the WSJ he anticipates “a rough negotiation session with CBS,” because “he knows going in that markets like his aren’t important to the networks.”

According to the WSJ, 60 percent of the revenue WCAX brings in the front door goes out the back door to CBS. “They’re getting more out of the station than we are,” complained Vermont’s own television pioneer. According to the WSJ, Red’s banking on his faith in good old CBS, the station of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite and Mike Wallace. In Red’s opinion, unlike the other networks, CBS is not run by “pirates.”

Shiver me timbers, matey.

Media Notes II

The Burlington Free Press has won a second award from the parent company for its coverage of what we once called the “UVM Hockey Hazing Scandal.” The Freeps won Gannett’s “Freedom of Information” award “for its aggressive, persistent coverage of hazing by members of the University of Vermont hockey team.” According to the announcement, “The university cloaked in secrecy its tepid investigation of initial allegations of hazing, and the school failed to forthrightly investigate additional charges.”

Well, jeezum crow. Hindsight’s 20-20. We now know that’s not true, but it sure sounds good, doesn’t it?

And Gannett erroneously claims the Freeps is responsible for the involvement of the governor and the attorney general. But that’s not true, either. Ho-Ho and Gen. Billy didn’t get involved until December 10, the day LaTulippe filed his lawsuit. The Guy first heard about it on the six o’clock news, he said, and the next morning he crashed the UVM trustees meeting, where he read them the riot act.

Oh, well, can’t let the facts get in the way. Congratulations on the award! And congratulations to the paper’s executive editor, Mickey Hirten, who just took second place in Gannett’s “Editor of the Year” contest. No question, Mr. Hirten is a rising star in Gannett land. By the way, Gannett land just got a lot bigger. The multinational media giant has shelled out over $1 billion for 21 more daily newspapers, mostly in the Midwest. Goodbye, Wisconsin. Let’s see. That’s 96 dailies plus USA Today.

And across the Atlantic Ocean, Gannett just added four daily newspapers to the 11 they already own in the United Kingdom.

“A local custom,” my arse.

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About The Author

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne, 1949-2009, wrote the weekly political column "Inside Track," which originated in the Vanguard Press in the mid 1980s; he brought it to Seven Days in 1995. He retired it shortly before his death in January, 2009. We all miss him.


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