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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Rutland Gym Owner Takes Battle With Vermont AG Outside

Posted By on Tue, May 19, 2020 at 6:06 PM

Club Fitness of Vermont parking lot in Rutland - COURTESY OF SEAN MANOVILL
  • Courtesy of Sean Manovill
  • Club Fitness of Vermont parking lot in Rutland
The owner of Club Fitness of Vermont has moved his Rutland gym outside to sidestep a court order that his business remain closed.

Sean Manovill said he wheeled cardio machines and free weights into the parking lot on Tuesday morning, arguing that a temporary restraining order handed down by a judge last week only applies to indoor activities.

"I'm definitely not in contempt of court," he said. "Absolutely not. I'm not doing anything that is wrong."

Attorney General T.J. Donovan sued Manovill last Friday following failed negotiations with the gym owner, who had opened the business in defiance of state mandates intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Just hours after the lawsuit was filed, a Rutland Superior Court judge sided with the state and prohibited Club Fitness from conducting "any in-person, indoor operations" so long as Gov. Phil Scott's executive order remains in effect.

Manovill's gym reopened in some capacity anyway, WCAX-TV reported Monday, citing the gym owner himself.

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Friday, May 15, 2020

Vermont Gym Owner Forced to Close After Defying Scott's Order

Posted By on Fri, May 15, 2020 at 7:33 PM

Club Fitness in Rutland - COURTESY OF SEAN MANOVILL
  • Courtesy of Sean Manovill
  • Club Fitness in Rutland
A judge on Friday granted the state a restraining order against a Vermont man who opened his indoor fitness centers in defiance of Gov. Phil Scott's executive order.

The ruling came just hours after Attorney General T.J. Donovan filed a civil lawsuit in Rutland Superior Court accusing Sean Manovill of illegally operating two Club Fitness gyms and not taking basic steps to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 at his businesses.

The judge's order forces the gyms in Rutland and Castleton to close until further notice. The state is also asking a judge to issue penalties of up to $1,000 for each day Manovill violated the order, and for him to reimburse the state for its investigative and court costs.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

As Controversies Mount, St. Albans Police Chief Gary Taylor to Retire

Posted By on Tue, May 12, 2020 at 5:29 PM

St. Albans Police Chief Gary Taylor - FILE: DEREK BROUWER
  • File: Derek Brouwer
  • St. Albans Police Chief Gary Taylor
Longtime St. Albans Police Chief Gary Taylor plans to retire following a series of misconduct allegations involving his officers and a recent no-confidence vote by the officers' union.

Taylor, who is also the chief of the city fire department, will retire from both positions on December 31. The transition plan calls for division commanders to begin assuming some leadership duties in the months ahead, city manager Dominic Cloud told Seven Days on Tuesday. If the city is able to hire a new chief before the end of the year, Taylor will assume other duties until his retirement date.

"This was very much a voluntary transition on the chief's part," Cloud said. "I think in his gut, he began to see it was time to bring in new leadership."

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Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Vermonters Are Watching Their Neighbors — and Reporting Them

Posted By on Wed, May 6, 2020 at 4:08 PM

EAG1E | DREAMSTIME.COM
  • Eag1e | Dreamstime.com
Forget loving thy neighbor — in the age of coronavirus, some people are more interested in narcing on thy neighbor.

Vermont has created an online reporting tool that allows people to tell on those that they suspect are violating Gov. Phil Scott's "Stay Home, Stay Safe" executive order.

It's proven quite popular: More than 270 people filed complaints between April 1 and 15, according to a ream of redacted public records obtained by Seven Days.

The complaints are funneled to the Vermont State Police but can be assigned to other police agencies, depending on where the alleged violation took place.

State troopers are leaning toward education instead of ticketing. And cops in Burlington, home to the most complaints filed with 17, say they have yet to cite or arrest anyone for violating the governor's executive order.

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Monday, May 4, 2020

Woman Punched by St. Albans Cop Sues City

Posted By on Mon, May 4, 2020 at 4:03 PM

Jason Lawton, right, with his attorney, Rebecca Otey - FILE: COLIN FLANDERS
  • File: Colin Flanders
  • Jason Lawton, right, with his attorney, Rebecca Otey
A woman who was punched by a former St. Albans police officer while handcuffed is suing the city for civil rights violations.

Amy Connelly, of Highgate, was in a holding cell at the police station on March 14, 2019, when then-sergeant Jason Lawton pushed her into a wall, then delivered an uppercut to her right eye. Two other officers, Zachary Koch and Michael Ferguson, helped Lawton restrain her on the floor.

Connelly's civil lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court of Vermont, names all three officers, Chief Gary Taylor and the city. She contends that the police department subjected her to illegal detention and excessive force, violating her constitutional and statutory rights.

The complaint also charges that the city failed to properly screen officers during its hiring process and that Taylor did not "adequately control, train, supervise and discipline police officers under his command."

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Friday, May 1, 2020

More Northwest State Correctional Facility Inmates Test Positive

Posted By on Fri, May 1, 2020 at 12:10 PM

Northwest State Correctional Facility - MICHAEL LETOUR / CC BY-SA/ CREATIVECOMMONS.ORG/LICENSES/BY-SA/2.0
  • Michael Letour / CC BY-SA/ creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0
  • Northwest State Correctional Facility
Seven more prisoners at Northwest State Correctional Facility have tested positive for the new coronavirus, a setback following weeks of cautious optimism that the outbreak had not spread.

These are the first new cases identified since the initial prison-wide round of testing was conducted on April 8. Forty-five inmates and 17 employees have now tested positive since the outbreak was detected nearly a month ago.

The new cases were acknowledged on Friday, even as officials said 16 of the other infected prisoners have recovered from weeks of medical isolation at a quarantine prison in St. Johnsbury. Three other COVID-19-positive inmates have been released.

"The inmates who tested positive were already in a quarantined unit thanks to the hard work of our contact-tracing team working with the Vermont Department of Health, who determined they may have interacted with a positive inmate from our first round of testing,” Department of Corrections interim Commissioner Jim Baker said in a press release.
Last week, Department of Corrections officials expressed hope that their quick action to isolate and transfer infected residents had contained the outbreak. The COVID-19 virus is believed to have an incubation period of 14 days, and no remaining inmates at Northwest had shown symptoms for at least that long.
The state retested the 155 inmates in recent days, leading to the discovery of seven new cases.

Those seven prisoners were transferred to Northeast Correctional Complex in St. Johnsbury for quarantine, Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said during Gov. Phil Scott's press conference on Friday.
Asked if officials still believed the outbreak at Northwest was contained, Smith congratulated the Department of Corrections.

"They have done an amazing job," he said.

Results of 154 employee tests are still pending.

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Friday, April 24, 2020

Prison Outbreak Leads to Skate Shop Owner's Release

Posted By on Fri, Apr 24, 2020 at 3:21 PM

Ridin' High skate shop - MATTHEW ROY
  • Matthew Roy
  • Ridin' High skate shop
"Big John" is free.

Ridin' High owner John Van Hazinga, jailed for dealing pot from his Burlington skate shop, was released this week over concerns about the coronavirus outbreak at the prison where he was confined.

Van Hazinga was awaiting sentencing on a federal drug charge at Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans when signs of outbreak emerged on April 1. He asked a federal judge to release him pending sentencing the following day.

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Thursday, April 23, 2020

After Officer's Arrest, St. Albans to Examine Police Hiring, Training

Posted By on Thu, Apr 23, 2020 at 6:32 PM

St. Albans Police Chief Gary Taylor - FILE: DEREK BROUWER
  • File: Derek Brouwer
  • St. Albans Police Chief Gary Taylor
City officials in St. Albans will review its beleaguered police department's hiring practices in light of the arrest this week of an officer.

In a lengthy statement released Thursday, Mayor Tim Smith continued to defend the department and longtime Chief Gary Taylor, who he said has "transformed" the force in recent years. Smith also detailed the existing "recruitment gauntlet" that would-be cops must pass. But the weekend arrest of officer Zachary Pigeon for sexual assault, kidnapping and other charges suggested that further changes are needed, Smith wrote.

"The Pigeon allegations indicate that we also need to increase the effectiveness of our recruitment and selection programs and ensure we are providing the training that reflects our values," the statement said. 

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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

'Dark Cloud' Over St. Albans PD After Officer Charged With Rape

Posted By on Tue, Apr 21, 2020 at 6:13 PM

Zachary Pigeon - VERMONT STATE POLICE
  • Vermont State Police
  • Zachary Pigeon
A police officer with the scandal-ridden St. Albans Police Department is accused of repeatedly raping a family member when they were children, then assaulting her this month as the victim began speaking up about the abuse.

Zachary Pigeon, 29, and his 56-year-old father Allen Pigeon were arrested Sunday and pleaded not guilty in state court Monday to charges of kidnapping, unlawful restraint, obstruction of justice, burglary and simple assault. Zachary Pigeon will be arraigned again Wednesday on charges of sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault, prosecutors said.

 A Vermont Superior Court judge released both men on Monday pending trial. They each face up to life in prison.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Vermont Sues Man Who Sold Masks to Hospital at 'Unconscionable' Price

Posted By on Tue, Apr 14, 2020 at 7:20 PM

Masks sold to Central Vermont Medical Center - COURT FILINGS
  • Court filings
  • Masks sold to Central Vermont Medical Center
State prosecutors say a Williston businessman exploited a Vermont hospital by charging “unconscionable” prices for desperately needed surgical masks.

Shelley Palmer, owner of Big Brother Security Programs, sold thousands of basic surgical masks to Central Vermont Medical Center last month as the hospital was trying to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

Such masks are worth around 10 cents each, but Palmer charged the nonprofit hospital $2.50 per mask, reaping an “exploitative gain” of at least $80,000, the Vermont Attorney General’s Office said.

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