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Thursday, November 19, 2020

Kilburn Family Files Wrongful Death Claim Against Burlington

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2020 at 8:04 PM

Douglas Kilburn (left) and Officer Cory Campbell - COURTESY OF LISA WEBBER | BURLINGTON POLICE DEPARTMENT
  • Courtesy of Lisa Webber | Burlington Police Department
  • Douglas Kilburn (left) and Officer Cory Campbell
The family of Douglas Kilburn is suing the City of Burlington, the mayor and police over his death last year following an altercation with a city cop outside the University of Vermont Medical Center.

The civil complaint, filed Wednesday afternoon in U.S. District Court, accuses Officer Cory Campbell of using excessive force when he punched Kilburn in the face, breaking multiple bones. The officer's actions in March 2019 ultimately caused Kilburn's "unjustified death," his family asserts.

The suit also targets former police chief Brandon del Pozo and Mayor Miro Weinberger, claiming they tried to conceal Campbell's wrongful conduct by seeking to change the state medical examiner's conclusions in the case.

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Monday, November 16, 2020

Independent Report Faults DOC, Medical Contractor in Death of Black Inmate

Posted By on Mon, Nov 16, 2020 at 1:06 PM

Kenneth Johnson - COURTESY OF GILBERT JOHNSON
  • Courtesy of Gilbert Johnson
  • Kenneth Johnson
Updated Wednesday, November 18, at 3:22 p.m.

The Department of Corrections could have done more to save the life of an inmate who died last December at a northern Vermont prison, according to a law firm hired by the state to investigate his death.

In a 38-page report issued Monday, attorneys with Downs Rachlin Martin concluded that DOC policies and personnel failed to protect Kenneth Johnson, a 60-year-old Black man who died after an undiagnosed tumor obstructed his airway. The firm also faulted Centurion, the medical contractor that ran the infirmary at Newport’s Northern State Correctional Facility, where Johnson was lodged.

The report questioned whether Johnson’s race contributed to his substandard treatment, concluding that “implicit bias likely played a role.”

The investigation found that authorities were aware that Johnson was in medical distress as early at 10 p.m. on December 6, but failed to respond appropriately to his requests for help. Though Johnson “appeared to be gasping for air,” according to one officer, staff neglected to summon a doctor or transport him to a nearby hospital.

After a Corrections officer found Johnson collapsed on the floor of an infirmary bathroom at 12:38 a.m. the next morning, prison staff ordered him to stay in bed and threatened to send him to a holding cell if he failed to comply, the report found. One supervisor told him to “knock it off.”

Johnson was discovered unresponsive at 2:17 a.m. and was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

The firm concluded that the department and Centurion "could have and should have done more to assist Mr. Johnson during his health crisis," noting that he was "clearly and visibly in substantial distress during that time period.”

"While corrections staff did not completely fail in responding to these complaints, at the end of the day, their response was insufficient to keep Mr. Johnson from dying from a tumor-caused breathing obstruction," the report’s authors wrote. "That should not have happened."

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Friday, October 30, 2020

No End in Sight to UVM Health Network Slowdown Caused by Cyberattack

Posted By on Fri, Oct 30, 2020 at 7:53 PM

University of Vermont Medical Center - FILE: COURTESY PHOTO
  • File: courtesy photo
  • University of Vermont Medical Center
Updated Saturday, Oct. 31, at 10:48 a.m.

University of Vermont Health Network hospitals continued to rely on old-fashioned, paper-based systems Friday, two days after a cyberattack crippled key digital infrastructure. And according to Dr. Stephen Leffler, president and chief operating officer of UVM Medical Center, it remains unclear when its electronic medical records system and other operations will be back online.

"I can tell you that there's days in front of us where we'll be using a paper system," he said during an afternoon phone briefing with reporters.

Leffler emphasized that the six Vermont and northern New York hospitals within the network continue to serve patients — albeit at a slower pace and with some limitations. "We have been caring for people without issue," he said, adding that staff were well-trained on contingency plans and had "switched pretty seamlessly to paper."

According to Leffler, UVM Medical Center on Friday performed roughly half of the surgeries it typically does. "The biggest issue really is efficiency," he said. "When we're on the electronic medical record [system] and all the pieces are connected normally, we can be very efficient in how we deliver care."

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State Officials Defend Response to Controversial Firearms Training Center

Posted By on Fri, Oct 30, 2020 at 7:33 PM

Gov. Phil Scott - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR ©️ Seven Days
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Vermont law enforcement officials have been monitoring a weapons training center in southwestern Vermont for at least a year, state leaders said Friday, responding to questions about a VTDigger.org story published a day earlier revealing how neighbors of the property live in a constant state of fear.

A story posted to the online news website Thursday evening said that neighbors of a West Pawlet facility known as Slate Ridge have experienced a number of confrontational exchanges with property owner Daniel Banyai and his associates.

The neighbors, who requested anonymity out of fear of retribution, told VTDigger that they are terrified Slate Ridge's trainees may one day act on the threats they've made on social media. One quote from the report summarized their fears: “You’re gonna pick up the paper someday, and it’s going to be mass murder up on Briar Hill Road," one of the neighbors said.

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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Cyberattack Disrupts UVM Health Network Operations

Posted By and on Thu, Oct 29, 2020 at 9:59 AM

UVM Medical Center president and chief operating officer Dr. Stephen Leffler at a press conference Thursday at the hospital. - COLIN FLANDERS ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Colin Flanders ©️ Seven Days
  • UVM Medical Center president and chief operating officer Dr. Stephen Leffler at a press conference Thursday at the hospital.
Updated at 9:31 p.m.

The University of Vermont Health Network fell victim to a cyberattack Wednesday, disrupting operations throughout the Vermont and northern New York hospital chain. The attack appears to be part of a coordinated assault on the nation’s health care system allegedly perpetrated by Russian hackers.

The hospital conglomerate experienced "a significant and ongoing system-wide network issue,” spokesperson Neal Goswami said Thursday, describing it as a “confirmed cyberattack.” A spokesperson for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Albany field office, Sarah Ruane, later said that it was investigating the incident alongside state and local authorities.

According to Goswami, the network lost access to a web portal that patients use to schedule appointments and access electronic medical records, slowing services throughout the hospital system.

The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency issued a warning Wednesday "of an increased and imminent cybercrime threat to U.S. hospitals and healthcare providers." The federal agency said the hackers were using malware to steal data from hospitals and hold it hostage.

At a press conference Thursday evening outside of the UVM Medical Center in Burlington, hospital officials would not say whether the attack was related. They also would not say whether it involved the same type of ransomware that has disrupted patient care at other hospitals around the nation, deferring questions about the investigation to the FBI.

Dr. Stephen Leffler, the hospital’s president and chief operating officer, said at the press conference that he had received no such demands. “I’ve had no contact with anyone at this point,” he said. “So I really can’t comment on that.”

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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

ICE Agrees to Stop Deportations of Three Migrant Justice Activists

Posted By on Wed, Oct 28, 2020 at 7:47 PM

Enrique Balcazar, one of the plaintiffs, addressing the crowd on Wednesday - COLIN FLANDERS ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Colin Flanders ©️ Seven Days
  • Enrique Balcazar, one of the plaintiffs, addressing the crowd on Wednesday
Immigration and Customs Enforcement will cease deportation proceedings against three Migrant Justice activists and pay $100,000 to settle a federal lawsuit claiming it had unlawfully targeted the advocacy group's members.

The settlement ends a federal lawsuit filed two years ago that alleged ICE had illegally sought to stifle Migrant Justice's political activism through a campaign of harassment, surveillance, arrests and deportation.

The agreement requires ICE to send a memo to its Vermont employees reiterating that they should not profile, target or discriminate against any individual or group for “exercising First Amendment rights.”

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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Purdue Pharma to Plead Guilty in Criminal Probe Initiated by Vermont Prosecutors

Posted By on Wed, Oct 21, 2020 at 2:13 PM

Christina Nolan, U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Christina Nolan, U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont
Updated at 8:07 p.m.

Purdue Pharma, the notorious drugmaker accused of fueling the opioid crisis, will plead guilty to two counts of violating federal anti-kickback laws, a major win for Vermont U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan, whose office uncovered the scheme. The company, best known for producing the opioid OxyContin, will also admit to defrauding federal health agencies.

Purdue will pay a criminal penalty of more than $5.5 billion in what the U.S. Department of Justice said Wednesday is the largest such penalty ever levied against a pharmaceutical manufacturer in a criminal case. Purdue will also pay an additional $2.8 billion civil fine, making for an $8.3 billion total settlement.

"The resolution in today’s announcement re-affirms that the Department of Justice will not relent in its multi-pronged efforts to combat the opioids crisis," Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen said during a press conference announcing the deal.

Nolan's office began investigating Purdue in 2018. This past January, she announced a $145 million settlement with electronic medical records company Practice Fusion, which had conspired with Purdue to push pills to patients using an alert system embedded in medical software.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

At Trial, Inmate Alleges Unsanitary Conditions in Women’s Prison Showers

Posted By on Tue, Oct 20, 2020 at 9:43 PM

A February 2020 photograph of a Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility shower drain taken by Office of Prisoners' Rights investigator Hillary Reale - CHITTENDEN SUPERIOR COURT
  • Chittenden Superior Court
  • A February 2020 photograph of a Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility shower drain taken by Office of Prisoners' Rights investigator Hillary Reale
An inmate at Vermont’s only prison for women testified Tuesday in Chittenden Superior Court that the facility’s showers reek of human waste and are infested with sewer flies and maggots. The inmate, Mandy Conte, said that ceiling leaks, a malfunctioning drain and a faulty ventilation system have led to the growth of mold and mildew in the shower stalls, which are used by 30 to 40 prisoners.

“It smells like a sewer,” she told the court in video testimony. “It’s strong. You can smell it as soon as you walk into the bathroom.”

Conte, who has been incarcerated at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility since February 2019, began filing grievances about the House 2 showers that June. She sued the Department of Corrections in September 2019, arguing that the state had failed to meet its obligation to maintain safe and sanitary conditions.

Judge Samuel Hoar, who presided over the bench trial, did not immediately hand down a ruling on Tuesday, instead requesting follow-up briefs from the parties.

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Vermont House Candidate Proposes Segregated Police Forces

Posted By on Tue, Oct 20, 2020 at 7:58 PM

Chris Viens (Right) and Mark Frier at a Waterbury Selectboard session last year - COURTESY OF GORDON MILLER
  • Courtesy of Gordon Miller
  • Chris Viens (Right) and Mark Frier at a Waterbury Selectboard session last year
A Waterbury politician running for state office says he doesn't want to defund the police: He wants to segregate them.

Chris Viens, chair of the Waterbury Selectboard and an independent candidate for the House of Representatives, said during a local radio interview that he thinks having minority officers respond to incidents involving other minorities might help defuse racial tensions in the state.

“As far as the defunding of the police, I’d rather see segregated police,” Viens told WDEV radio during a candidate forum on Monday. “When calls come out that are minority related, those police officers that are ... minority will address those issues.”

Viens, an excavation contractor, said that, were his plan enacted, “if there is a tragic shooting” of a person of color by another person of color, “the whole racist issue might be put to rest.”

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Two With Law Enforcement Ties Charged in Separate Incidents

Posted By on Tue, Oct 20, 2020 at 4:15 PM

ALAIN LACROIX | DREAMSTIME.COM
  • Alain Lacroix | Dreamstime.com
Two men with law enforcement ties, including a current Burlington cop, face criminal charges in separate incidents.

Cpl. William Drinkwine of the Burlington Police Department was charged Friday with illegally entering a Swanton woman's home in July, Vermont State Police announced Tuesday morning. State police offered few details about the incident, saying more information would be available upon Drinkwine's November 2 arraignment in Franklin County.

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