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Friday, May 19, 2017

Racial Bias Lawsuit Against Bennington Police Clears Hurdle

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 2:42 PM

  • Daniel Fishel
A federal judge has rejected a Bennington police request to dismiss a racial bias lawsuit filed by a black man whose drug conviction was overturned by the Vermont Supreme Court.

In a ruling handed down this week, U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford upheld most claims brought by Shamel Alexander, who in 2013 came to Bennington from upstate New York in a taxi cab and was arrested with 11 grams of heroin in his possession. The civil case will be allowed to proceed.

After Alexander, a first time offender, served three years of a 10 year sentence, high court justices unanimously overturned his conviction, saying the police stop and search appeared to be racially motivated. 

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Ex of Accused Wrong-Way Driver Asks Court to Allow Prison Visits

Posted By on Mon, May 8, 2017 at 5:50 PM

  • Glenn Russell/Burlington Free Press
  • Steven Bourgoin
The ex-girlfriend of a man charged with killing five Vermont teens in October would like to bring the couple's 3-year-old daughter to visit him in prison, a court heard Monday.

Steven Bourgoin sported a full beard and shaggy haircut as he sat impassively during the 30-minute hearing in Burlington's Edward J. Costello Courthouse. The 36-year-old Williston man is charged with five counts of second-degree murder for allegedly driving the wrong way on Interstate 89 and slamming his pickup truck head-on into a car full of teenagers.

The last time Bourgoin appeared in public — at his October arraignment — a nurse and police officer helped wheel him into a hospital room-turned-courtroom. The prone defendant, lying on a hospital bed, was still recovering from his injuries and barely conscious as his legal team entered not guilty pleas on his behalf.

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Friday, May 5, 2017

Suspect in Burlington College Burglary Won't Face Charges

Posted By on Fri, May 5, 2017 at 8:48 PM

Burlington College - FILE: NATALIE WILLIAMS
  • File: Natalie Williams
  • Burlington College
A man suspected of stealing computers last year from Burlington College after it had closed down will not face criminal prosecution, Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo said.

Federal authorities are continuing to investigate a land deal brokered by former Burlington College president Jane O'Meara Sanders, the wife of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). News of that investigation broke last week, and has led to renewed interest in the unsolved burglary.

Police responded to a break-in at the college that occurred on either July 24 or July 25. It was two months after the school had closed due to financial difficulties stemming in part from the purchase of its North Avenue campus.

There was no sign of forced entry and the door had likely been left unlocked, Burlington police officers said in an affidavit. Additionally, someone had disabled security cameras.

Several offices had been vandalized, and water had been poured on some computer servers. "In numerous offices, items were tipped over and damaged," police records say. "Computer monitors and computers were thrown about the rooms."

The college's main server, roughly 15-20 Macintosh computers and the school's Ford van were missing. Some records of students from Israel had been taken as well.

A college representative told police that "several things were odd about the burglary," the records say. "She stated she felt like an individual would have to know the keys to the van were kept in her office in order to locate the keys."

On July 26, police in Troy, N.Y. found the missing van after it crashed through a fence. They arrested Brett H. Seglem, who had allegedly been driving, according to police documents. Passengers in the van told police that they met Seglem in nearby Albany and he offered to drive them to Philadelphia. In the van, he bragged to them that he had stolen the vehicle and computers from Burlington College, according to police documents.

The computers were found inside the crashed van, along with some Burlington College banners. But the server was not recovered, according to police documents.

Police found a sign that read, "Traveling Broke & Hungry."

In an interview, del Pozo said that the Chittenden County State's Attorney's Office twice declined to prosecute Seglem for the alleged burglary, citing a lack of evidence.

Reached in New Jersey, Seglem's mother, Joanne Seglem, told Seven Days that her son is a drug addict who has struggled for years. She declined to discuss the case. Brett Seglem could not be located for comment.

An associate of Seglem's told police that he had been squatting last summer in an unused college building in the Burlington area, according to the affidavit. first reported details of the burglary in September.

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Burlington Police Investigate Reported Bike Path Assault

Posted By on Wed, May 3, 2017 at 6:26 PM

Cyclists passing through Oakledge Park - CALEB KENNA
  • Caleb Kenna
  • Cyclists passing through Oakledge Park
Burlington police are still investigating an "unusual" incident in which a 13-year-old boy reported being targeted by a knife-wielding man on the bike path last week, Chief Brandon del Pozo said.

The boy reported that around 5:30 p.m. last Thursday, a man tried to rob him of his bicycle and wallet near the overpass between North Beach and Leddy Park, del Pozo said. The boy said the man dashed off after a brief scuffle.

The boy had "superficial" wounds to his face and shoulder, del Pozo said. He described his attacker as a white man in his 20s or 30s, who was wearing a black Nike hoodie and two rings.

Though the alleged incident occurred on a warm, sunny evening on the high-traffic path, there are no known witnesses, del Pozo said. There have been no other similar incidents reported since then, del Pozo said.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

South Burlington Death Threat Suspect Released Pending Trial

Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 3:47 PM

Josiah Leach, center, leaves court with attorney Elizabeth Quinn, left, and his mother, Joy McKenzie - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • Josiah Leach, center, leaves court with attorney Elizabeth Quinn, left, and his mother, Joy McKenzie
A South Burlington High School student accused of threatening to kill students and staff was released from prison Thursday and ordered to live with his mother as he awaits trial.

Josiah Leach, 18, will be confined to the South Burlington home at all times except for medical appointments, meetings with his lawyer or for legal proceedings, and if granted permission to leave by his probation officer, U.S. District Judge Christina Reiss ruled.

Leach, who faces a five-year maximum sentence on a charge of threatening by means of interstate commerce, must wear a GPS-monitored ankle bracelet and cannot have contact with any students, visit district schools, or use a computer.

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A Divided South Burlington Tries to Unite With Two Separate Events

Posted By and on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 12:00 AM

People at Wednesday's vigil in South Burlington - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • People at Wednesday's vigil in South Burlington
Community members convened at two separate gatherings a few miles apart in South Burlington Wednesday evening in an attempt to unite after a week fraught with fear and uncertainty.

But the competing events represented the two sides in the often contentious — and racially tinged — debate over the high school’s Rebel nickname. And the gatherings came just days after a South Burlington High School senior’s arrest for allegedly threatening to kill his classmates and teachers, supposedly as retribution for the decision to drop the Rebel name.

One of the groups gathered for a vigil outside city hall with a message of peace and unity, while another showed up at the police station to thank officers for their work as the death threats last week terrified the town.

Organizer Vicki Garrison told the 60-person strong crowd at city hall that the vigil was “an opportunity to start healing, to start a new beginning — together. This gathering represents unity, harmony and peace and I just thank you so much for coming.”

Holding signs that read “unity is in our hands” and “strength in unity,” the crowd listened as speakers urged the school board to stand by its February decision to drop the Rebels name, which some say has racist connotations. The group at times prayed together and sang “We Shall Overcome” in the round.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Conduct Board Removes Side Judge Over Estate Case

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 3:47 PM

Image from Catherine Tolaro's will - FILE
  • File
  • Image from Catherine Tolaro's will
A Windham County assistant judge accused of mismanaging the estate of an elderly woman has been suspended and barred for life from serving on the bench by the Judicial Conduct Board.

Paul Kane is contesting allegations in probate court that he mishandled the estate of a local woman for whom he provided care. He failed "to uphold the integrity of the judiciary," the board ruled in a decision issued Monday.

"The board considers the permanent prohibition on holding judicial office appropriate due to the severity of Mr. Kane's conduct, the fact that these violations continued throughout his tenure as assistant judge, his refusal to take responsibility for his actions in his testimony before the board and his multiple instances of providing demonstrably false testimony to the board at the hearing," board chair Steven Adler wrote in a 19-page decision.

Kane and his late wife, Marie, took Catherine Tolaro into their Westminster home in 2009, according to court documents. Tolaro was then 82. The couple gained power of attorney for Tolaro in 2010. She died in 2014 at age 86.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Feds: South Burlington Student 'Admitted' Sending Email Threat

Posted By on Mon, Apr 24, 2017 at 6:15 PM

The Rebels scoreboard at South Burlington High School - FILE: MOLLY WALSH
  • File: Molly Walsh
  • The Rebels scoreboard at South Burlington High School
The South Burlington High School senior charged with threatening to kill students and staff last week "admitted" to police that he sent a threatening email, prosecutors wrote in a court filing ahead of his first court appearance.

Josiah Leach, 18, showed no emotion during the U.S. District Court hearing Monday afternoon in Burlington, at which he was assigned a public defender. Leach did not enter a plea and is scheduled to return to court on Thursday. He is being held without bail.

Authorities charged Leach with knowingly transmitting a threat via interstate commerce, which carries a five year maximum sentence. The teen, who is African American, allegedly made eight threats last week to kill students and staff in retaliation for the racially charged decision to drop the high school's Rebels nickname.

The February decision to drop the name has roiled the community. Critics say it's a reference to the Confederate South and slavery, while defenders say it's a benign tradition.

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Digital Forensics Led to Charge Against South Burlington Student

Posted By on Sat, Apr 22, 2017 at 6:25 PM

The Rebels scoreboard at South Burlington High School - MOLLY WALSH/SEVEN DAYS
  • Molly Walsh/Seven Days
  • The Rebels scoreboard at South Burlington High School
The student accused of making death threats against South Burlington students and teachers posted news stories about the turmoil on his Facebook page as the drama was unfolding.

He also allegedly put his own name on the "murder list" that was issued with the threats via email and in a video.

Josiah Leach, 18, was arrested Friday night on a federal charge, ending a week of school lockdowns and a district-wide school closure Friday.

He was in jail awaiting arraignment Monday in federal court on a felony charge of knowingly transmitting a threat via interstate commerce. Leach is a senior at South Burlington High School.

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Friday, April 21, 2017

South Burlington Student Charged With Making Death Threats

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 7:16 PM

South Burlington Police Chief Trevor Whipple (left) and South Burlington Schools Superintendent David Young at Friday's press conference. - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • South Burlington Police Chief Trevor Whipple (left) and South Burlington Schools Superintendent David Young at Friday's press conference.
Updated at 9:23 p.m.

Police arrested 18-year-old Josiah Leach, a South Burlington High School student, on Friday in relation to death threats made against staff and other students in the district.

South Burlington Police Chief Trevor Whipple announced the arrest on federal charges at a press conference from the police department shortly after 9 p.m. Authorities had made the arrest just half an hour earlier, he said.

School had been canceled Friday after threats were sent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The school day ended in lockdowns on Wednesday and Thursday.

Leach, according to police, will be held in custody over the weekend until he's arraigned Monday in federal court.

Read the original story below:

Someone threatened South Burlington students and school district staff in a video Friday that included the same "murder list" which prompted a lockdown and school evacuation Thursday.

Superintendent of Schools David Young — along with South Burlington Police Chief Trevor Whipple — confirmed at a 3 p.m. news conference that officials are aware of the video, which had been circulating on social media.

The video threatens specific school staff and students as retribution for the school board's decision to drop the Rebels team nickname. The name change has riled up the community. Critics say the name is racist while its defenders consider it a harmless tradition.

Young explained that the latest threat came in around 4 a.m. Friday and "was a video and essentially repeated a lot of the same information that was shared within the text that was sent previously. The police are continuing very, very aggressive investigation at this time."

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