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Friday, November 16, 2018

Supreme Court Orders New Trial for Former Senator Norm McAllister

Posted By on Fri, Nov 16, 2018 at 3:10 PM

  • File: Pool Photo/Gregory J. Lamoureux/County Courier
  • Norm McAllister in court
The Vermont Supreme Court has ordered a new trial on a charge that former state senator Norm McAllister engaged in a prostitution scheme with a woman living on his farm.

The court said Judge Martin Maley made two mistakes in McAllister’s trial: He allowed jurors to consider separate sex-for-rent allegations for which McAllister was never convicted, and he improperly told the jury to ignore statements by McAllister’s accuser.

McAllister was convicted in July 2017 of one misdemeanor count of procuring a person for the purpose of prostitution. He was acquitted of a second count, and also of a felony sexual assault charge. It was the second trial involving allegations that led to McAllister’s 2015 arrest at the Statehouse. He was accused of sex-related crimes against multiple women.

The state dropped its charges in the first trial after the key witness allegedly lied under oath.

McAllister escaped a felony sexual assault conviction in his second trial, and now the prostitution conviction has been thrown out pending a new trial.

The written decision says that Maley told attorneys before the trial that separate sex crime allegations against McAllister should not be introduced because jurors were only evaluating the specific allegations related to one accuser.

During the trial, the justices wrote, Maley made the mistake of allowing prosecutors to admit evidence involving a different woman. “We conclude the admission of the alleged prior bad act evidence was an abuse of discretion,” the decision says.

Separately, Maley told jurors to ignore testimony from McAllister’s accuser in which she said, “I did it with a guy before for money.”

  • File: Pool Photo/Gregory J. Lamoureux/County Courier
  • Judge Martin Maley
McAllister’s attorney, Bob Katims, said that mistake was central to his client’s conviction.

“[The jury] basically said they didn’t have a decision and then all of a sudden they had a question and once the question got answered they had a verdict,” Katims said. He said that if Franklin County prosecutors decide to move forward with a new trial, he’ll fight it.

“We’d be filing a motion to dismiss the charge. There’s a mechanism to file a motion to — it’s not a legal term, but ‘enough is enough,’” Katims said.

“He’s now been brought to trial twice. It was dismissed in one place; he was acquitted of two out of three charges the second time,” Katims said. “He certainly has suffered greatly from this in that he lost his seat in the legislature… He’s been on probation for the last year.”

A woman who answered the phone at the Franklin County state's attorney's office on Friday afternoon said nobody was available to comment.

Read the full decision here:

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Media Note: State Declines to Prosecute DUI Chronicled by Valley News

Posted By on Wed, Nov 14, 2018 at 9:16 PM

  • Dreamstime
In a powerful piece published Sunday in the Valley News, veteran columnist Jim Kenyon described the saga of a poverty-stricken Strafford man who was arrested for driving under the influence of a prescribed antidepressant. Three days later, Windsor County State's Attorney David Cahill announced that his office would not prosecute the man, Scott Pixley, for a DUI — but would charge him with negligent driving.

The case dates back to July 31, when a Hartford police officer pulled Pixley over for allegedly veering over the center line while driving to pick up prescriptions for his elderly parents. Pixley, who works as a dishwasher, said he had been sleep-deprived and described his prescribed medications to the officer.

That didn’t appease police, who, according to Kenyon, impounded Pixley's car, handcuffed him and and temporarily locked him in a holding cell. Blood tests later revealed that Pixley had caffeine and a prescribed medication in his system at the time of his arrest, Kenyon reported, leading police to cite him with a DUI.

In response to inquires, Cahill informed Seven Days and the Valley News by email Wednesday that his office would only charge Pixley with negligent driving. He is scheduled to be arraigned November 20. The Valley News first reported the prosecutor's decision.

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Friday, November 2, 2018

Vandal Defaces Controversial Burlington Parade Mural

Posted By on Fri, Nov 2, 2018 at 1:20 PM

A tarp covers the vandalized section of the "Everyone Loves a Parade!" mural in Burlington. - MATTHEW ROY
  • Matthew Roy
  • A tarp covers the vandalized section of the "Everyone Loves a Parade!" mural in Burlington.
Burlington officials say someone literally defaced the controversial “Everyone Loves a Parade!” mural this week.

Police Chief Brandon del Pozo said the vandal targeted white people, including Samuel de Champlain and Ethan Allen, depicted leading the parade. A Native American figure was unscathed, according to del Pozo.

“An unknown person applied a solvent to the faces of the people in the front of the mural,” del Pozo said, adding that the chemicals “melted the paint and the finish down to the wood.”

Once the faces were removed from the 124-foot-long mural, del Pozo said, the vandal spray painted pink dollar signs in their places. It marked the second time the mural had been recently vandalized.

“About two weeks ago … somebody spray painted ‘colonizers’ across the mural,” del Pozo said, “but it was over the laminate, so it could be removed.”

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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Vermont Candidate Promises Weekly 'Governor's Pardon TV Show'

Posted By on Tue, Oct 30, 2018 at 2:03 PM

Cris Ericson for Governor from Vermont PBS on Vimeo.

A Vermont gubernatorial candidate has proposed a nationally televised show in which a booing or cheering crowd would decide the fate of state prisoners.

Independent candidate Cris Ericson, a marijuana advocate who regularly runs for statewide office, outlined her vision in a commentary for Vermont PBS.

“If you elect me, I will host a governor’s pardon TV show every Saturday night and pardon a few of the people who violate the new, unconstitutional anti-gun laws, and some of the nonviolent offenders of other laws, to save Vermonters money,” Ericson said in the commentary. She was referring, presumably, to new restrictions on gun ownership signed into law in April by her Republican opponent, Gov. Phil Scott.

Ericson said the show would be hosted from the auditorium in Montpelier's Pavilion State Office Building, a few floors below the governor’s office.

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Friday, October 19, 2018

Arkansas Man Gets Probation for Scamming Developer Don Sinex

Posted By on Fri, Oct 19, 2018 at 1:34 PM

Michael Marshall - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Michael Marshall
An Arkansas man received one to two years' probation Friday for his role in a scam that defrauded Don Sinex and the Burlington Town Center of nearly $30,000.

Michael Marshall, 61, pleaded no contest to possession of stolen property worth more than $900, a felony. Two other charges, identity theft and false impersonation, were dismissed.

Marshall's attorney, Margaret Jansch, argued that Marshall had unwittingly been swept up in a more complicated scam targeting the Burlington developer.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Gobeille Addresses Prison Health Care Spending Concerns

Posted By on Tue, Oct 2, 2018 at 6:33 PM

Secretary of Human Services Al Gobeille - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Secretary of Human Services Al Gobeille
Vermont Secretary of Human Services Al Gobeille is defending the state’s contract with a private prison health care provider after lawmakers and advocates expressed concerns.

At a September 20 legislative hearing, Vermont's chief health care advocate, Michael Fisher, questioned what had happened to $2.2 million that the state paid the contractor, Centurion, in fiscal year 2017. Lawmakers got the impression that Centurion had pocketed the money as profit, which Department of Corrections officials in the room didn't dispute.

But that was not the case, according to Gobeille. The secretary wasn’t at the hearing, but he later told lawmakers that Centurion spent the $2.2 million on other health care expenses. “There’s no missing money,” he said. “I don’t want anyone to think that we paid for a bunch of pharmaceuticals that never got used.”

Fisher raised the money issue while discussing a lack of hepatitis C treatment in Vermont prisons. “Our chief concern is that inmates are getting the care that they need,” Fisher said. Gobeille’s explanation “doesn’t satisfy the concern.”

Centurion did retain about $450,000 in profit in 2017 and received about $2 million to cover corporate overhead costs, according to Gobeille. In the context of the roughly $20 million contract, “I don’t think that’s exorbitant by any respect,” he said.

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Friday, September 28, 2018

Coyne Releases Orphanage Victims From Confidentiality Agreements

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2018 at 12:51 PM

Bishop Christopher Coyne - MATTHEW ROY
  • Matthew Roy
  • Bishop Christopher Coyne
Bishop Christopher Coyne on Friday said the diocese is waiving nondisclosure agreements struck with St. Joseph's Orphanage abuse victims in past legal settlements.

The decision is part of an effort to aid a new investigation into abuse claims at St. Joseph's, which closed in 1974. It comes as the bishop has repeatedly pledged to cooperate with a law enforcement task force overseeing the inquiry.

"They are now free to tell the story of what happened to them as they see fit," Coyne said in a prepared statement.

Some former residents of the Burlington orphanage sued the diocese in the 1990s and settled their cases. Coyne said that since 2002, the diocese has not asked survivors to sign NDAs as part of settlements.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

New Haven Man Cautions Cannabis Growers After Thieves Steal His Plants

Posted By on Wed, Sep 26, 2018 at 4:26 PM

Nestled beside the vegetables and a seaberry bush, Mark Krawczyk was raising two cannabis plants in the garden on his 12-acre New Haven property.

But when he woke up Tuesday morning, the stalks had been stripped. Plants that had been bursting with ready-to-harvest cannabis flower were barren.
Krawczyk was devastated.

“We put a lot of care and energy into the plants,” Krawczyk said. “It’s a bummer. We were excited it was legal.”

He and his wife had planted the cannabis behind chickenwire in their 2,000-square-foot garden shortly after Vermont legalized weed on July 1. The property is shielded from Route 7 by a hedgerow, and Krawczyk said the plants weren’t visible from the road, where cars go whizzing by at 55 miles per hour. He theorized that someone scoped out their property, likely from an adjacent hayfield.

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Monday, September 10, 2018

ACLU Slams Plan to Send Vermont Inmates to Mississippi Prison

Posted By on Mon, Sep 10, 2018 at 3:18 PM

  • Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
  • Camp Hill prison
Updated 7:51 p.m.

The Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union slammed the Department of Corrections on Monday for preparing to send state inmates to a privately run prison in Mississippi.

Following reports of abuse and multiple deaths, more than 200 Vermont inmates currently living in a Pennsylvania prison will be moved next month to the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Mississippi, reported on Sunday. The Mississippi facility is owned by CoreCivic, the company formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America.

Vermont had contracted with CCA to house inmates in Kentucky and Arizona from 2004 to 2015.

Critics such as the ACLU say Vermont should focus on reducing its inmate population through criminal justice reform measures so that the state would not have to enter into pricey contracts to send inmates out of state, where it is more difficult to monitor conditions.

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Authorities Say Investigating St. Joseph's Orphanage Abuse Won't Be Easy

Posted By on Mon, Sep 10, 2018 at 2:42 PM

The former orphanage - NATALIE WILLIAMS
  • Natalie Williams
  • The former orphanage
Even as Vermont law enforcement officials announced Monday the formation of a task force to investigate claims of abuse at the long-shuttered St. Joseph's Catholic Orphanage, they acknowledged the challenges that it will face.

Attorney General T.J. Donovan suggested that the probe, prompted by a recent Buzzfeed story detailing decades of abuse suffered by children, could focus more on fact-finding than legal action. The story includes claims that children died at the hands of nuns.

Many of the victims and alleged perpetrators are dead or elderly, and the statutes of limitation have expired for many acts at the North Avenue orphanage, which closed in 1974.

"While there may be challenges given the current state of our laws ... there should be no challenge to bringing truth and reconciliation and closure and justice for victims," Donovan said. He added, "Justice doesn't always occur in a courtroom."

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