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Thursday, July 22, 2021

Essex Police Change Course After Charging Black Man Involved in Fight

Posted By on Thu, Jul 22, 2021 at 10:52 PM

  • Alain Lacroix | Dreamstime
Following public scrutiny, the Essex Police Department on Thursday apologized to a Black man and withdrew a felony assault citation it had issued him for his role in a brawl last week.

In a lengthy written statement Thursday, released an hour after activists were scheduled to protest outside the police station, Chief Ron Hoague said his officers were too quick to cite Brandon Williams.

The department "has been working with community members this past year in an effort to better serve everyone in our community, especially those most impacted by racism and inequity," Hoague wrote. "We have engaged our public in conversation and efforts like never before and we realize that incidents such as this indicate we have more work to do."

Williams was the only one charged of at least four people involved in the July 13 fight, which police said took place at the home of a man who Williams had hired to repair a motorcycle. Police had previously said their investigation was not over and that additional charges could follow.

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Friday, June 4, 2021

Law Firm That Advised Quiros on EB-5 Projects to Pay $32.5 Million Settlement

Posted By on Fri, Jun 4, 2021 at 6:29 PM

A chart detailing the alleged inappropriate flow of funds within the Jay Peak and Q Burke EB-5 projects - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • A chart detailing the alleged inappropriate flow of funds within the Jay Peak and Q Burke EB-5 projects
The law firm accused of helping the former owner of Jay Peak resort defraud investors has agreed to pay $32.5 million to the court-appointed receiver untangling the mess left behind by the massive scandal.

Michael Goldberg, the receiver, filed the settlement agreement with the firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp Friday in U.S. District Court in Southern Florida. The firm provided legal advice to Ariel Quiros, the Miami businessman accused of bilking investors in development projects in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

Goldberg argued that the firm “breached [its] fiduciary duties and aided and abetted the fraud orchestrated by Quiros” and therefore was responsible for the fraud going on as long as it did.

Quiros and his partner, William Stenger, were accused of misusing $200 million of $350 million raised through the state EB-5 program, which financed development projects funded by foreign investors hoping to obtain green cards.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Faith Group Calls for Quicker Cultural Change at Women's Prison

Posted By on Wed, Jun 2, 2021 at 11:56 PM

Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility - FILE: LUKE AWTRY ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • File: Luke Awtry ©️ Seven Days
  • Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility
The Vermont Interfaith Action group pressed state corrections officials and lawmakers on Wednesday to improve conditions for women held at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington, which has been rocked by sexual misconduct allegations in recent years.

A cultural change promised for Vermont’s only prison for women isn’t happening fast enough, members of the group said.

“As faith communities, we believe there is a moral imperative to change the culture of the Vermont Department of Corrections to a new paradigm,” Linda Wentworth said during a Zoom meeting at which the group called for reforms.

That new model would replace a damaging “power and control dynamic” with a “culture of wellness” similar to what's been created for women prisoners in Maine. That model embraces “measures to improve and maintain [their] physical, emotional and spiritual health," Wentworth said.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Vigil in Burlington Marks Anniversary of George Floyd's Death

Posted By on Tue, May 25, 2021 at 3:36 PM

Attendees at a vigil for George Floyd on Tuesday - COLIN FLANDERS ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Colin Flanders ©️ Seven Days
  • Attendees at a vigil for George Floyd on Tuesday
A solemn crowd of about 50 gathered in Burlington on Tuesday to honor the memory of George Floyd, a Black man whose murder by a white police officer in Minneapolis last year ignited a reckoning on race and policing.

The event marked the one-year anniversary of Floyd's death and drew elected officials, community leaders and others to City Hall Park, where attendees held a silent vigil lasting nine minutes and 29 seconds — the same amount of time that former officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck.

C D Mattison, who organized the vigil, briefly addressed the crowd to reflect on Floyd's final moments, which were captured on video by a 17-year-old bystander and quickly seared into the national consciousness.

"George Floyd should be alive today. We know that," Mattison said. "And what pained me so much for his family — and most certainly for George Floyd, as he cried out for his mother — was the gathering of people who were there in witness, and how excruciating it was for them that they felt they could not intervene on his behalf and save him, because their very own lives were at risk as well."

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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Another Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Filed Against the Burlington Diocese

Posted By on Wed, May 19, 2021 at 5:58 PM

Bishop Christopher Coyne at a press conference on sex abuse in 2019 - SASHA GOLDSTEIN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Sasha Goldstein ©️ Seven Days
  • Bishop Christopher Coyne at a press conference on sex abuse in 2019
A New Jersey man is suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington over sexual abuse dating to 1978 involving a since-disgraced priest who was under the diocese's authority.

The civil complaint, filed in Vermont Superior Court on Tuesday, accuses the diocese of allowing the Rev. Leo Courcy Jr. to continue his ministry for decades with "unfettered" access to children, despite knowing he was a pedophile.

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Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Driver Who Allegedly Rammed a Porch While Shouting Racial Slurs Charged

Posted By on Wed, May 5, 2021 at 10:33 PM

  • Vermont State Police
  • Anthony Mason
A white man shouted racial slurs as he drove a truck through a yard in Richford and rammed a porch where a Black resident was, that resident told police.

The truck driver, Anthony Mason, 27, was reported to have threatened to kill the resident during the incident, police said in a press release.

He was later arrested at his Richford home. He is expected to be charged with attempted second-degree murder, grossly negligent operation of a motor vehicle and unlawful mischief. The three charges will be filed with a hate-crime enhancement, police said, which can add more time to prison sentences.

Police said 27-year-old Michael Wilson called authorities shortly after 9 a.m. Wednesday to report that Mason, whom he knew, drove over a dirt bike before hitting his porch near him and his dog. Police say Mason caused "considerable" damage to Wilson's dirt bike and yard.

On Wednesday evening, a judge ordered that Mason be held at the Northwest State Correctional Facility for lack of $10,000 bail. He’s scheduled to be arraigned at 1 p.m. Thursday at the Vermont Superior Court in St. Albans.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Commissioner: Unemployment Fraud Has Cost Vermont Millions

Posted By on Tue, May 4, 2021 at 10:37 AM

Former governor Howard Dean with multiple information booklets for new claimants that he received - COURTESY PHOTO: HOWARD DEAN
  • Courtesy photo: Howard Dean
  • Former governor Howard Dean with multiple information booklets for new claimants that he received
The state Department of Labor doesn’t have a timeline for reopening its online claims filing system, saying that reverting to its old system of taking claims only by phone has dramatically reduced a flood of fraudulent claims.

The department disabled its online application last week after a surge of fraud that started in mid-April. Individuals or groups in the U.S. and internationally have been using people's names, addresses and other personal information to file fraudulent claims, collecting the money through direct deposits.

On Monday, Labor Commissioner Mike Harrington said 2,300 new claims came in April 27, and 1,700 on the following day. After the department disabled its online application, the numbers plummeted to just 159 on Thursday, 154 on Friday, and 30 on Saturday, said Harrington.

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Monday, May 3, 2021

Thousands of Students Protest UVM's Handling of Sexual Violence

Posted By on Mon, May 3, 2021 at 8:07 PM

Student demonstrators gather in front of the Waterman Building - COLIN FLANDERS ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Colin Flanders ©️ Seven Days
  • Student demonstrators gather in front of the Waterman Building
Thousands of University of Vermont students staged a mass walkout on Monday afternoon, marching through campus to protest the school's handling of sexual assault allegations.

The immense crowd formed on the lawn of the Redstone Campus around noon and weaved its way toward the Waterman Building, where students took over the front steps to share their own stories of sexual assault and slam the administration for failing to protect them. 

"I have heard countless 'me toos' shouted into the dark because our university doesn't give a damn about what their students are going through, or the safety of their students," UVM senior Syd Ovitt, 21, one of the event's organizers, said into a megaphone. "That should not have to fall on any one person — that should fall on the university. It is their job to keep us safe. And it is their job to hold students accountable."

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Friday, April 30, 2021

Widespread Fraud Prompts Vermont to Disable Online Unemployment Claims

Posted By on Fri, Apr 30, 2021 at 5:39 PM

  • Designer491 | Dreamstime
The Vermont Department of Labor disabled its online unemployment claim application because more than 90 percent of the claims filed were flagged as fraudulent, the department announced Friday afternoon.

Earlier this week, state Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington told Seven Days that as many as 70 percent of the claims filed this month were fraudulent. The U.S. Department of Justice has cited a national wave of unprecedented unemployment insurance fraud and has set up a task force to combat it.

Former Vermont governor Howard Dean told Seven Days on Sunday that he had gotten no fewer than 10 booklets for claimants, which the department mails automatically to people who filed for benefits. Dean said he had filed no claim. And even after he reported what was happening, he said, the mailings kept coming. "This is crazy," he said.

The state will continue to accept new claims, but they must come in by phone through the UI Claimant Assistance Center at 877-214-3330. It's open Monday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

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Monday, April 26, 2021

Unemployment Insurance Fraud Is the Latest Epidemic

Posted By on Mon, Apr 26, 2021 at 8:03 PM

Former governor Howard Dean - HOWARD DEAN
  • Howard Dean
  • Former governor Howard Dean
No, former governor Howard Dean has not been filing unemployment claims over and over — but somebody apparently has in his name. Dean is one of many Vermonters who have been mailed information packets about unemployment benefits that they never sought. The former gov actually received no fewer than 10 large booklets for new claimants from the Department of Labor.

The department is reporting a huge increase in fraudulent claims this spring, part of a national wave. The scope of the fraud is “unprecedented,” said the U.S. Department of Justice, which has set up a task force to combat it.

As many as 70 percent of the claims filed this month in Vermont are fraudulent, state Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington said Monday.

Under the schemes — which are now being investigated by an alphabet soup of federal and state agencies, as well as banks and state attorneys general — scammers use unsuspecting people's personal information to collect benefits. 

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