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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Middlebury College Disciplines 67 Students for Murray Protests

Posted By on Tue, May 23, 2017 at 9:11 PM

Professor Allison Stanger with Charles Murray on the live stream
  • Professor Allison Stanger with Charles Murray on the live stream
Middlebury College has disciplined 67 students after its investigation into the disruption of a March 2 lecture by controversial author Charles Murray, the school announced Tuesday.

The sanctions range "from probation to official college discipline, which places a permanent record in the student's file," the school said in a statement.

Murray attempted to lecture in the McCullough Student Center about his 2012 book, Coming Apart. Murray is better known for his 1994 book, The Bell Curve, which sought to correlate social inequality to genetics. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled his work "racist pseudoscience."

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Vermont's 'Biggest' Pill Dealer Gets Nine-Year Prison Sentence

Posted By on Mon, May 22, 2017 at 6:48 PM

  • David Junkin
A New York City drug dealer who brought thousands of prescription opioid pills into Vermont was sentenced Monday to nine years in prison.

Michael Foreste, who was profiled by Seven Days in April for his participation in an unusual prison treatment program, told U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions III that his time spent in prison and the counseling he has received in recent months has changed his outlook.

"I now know what these pills do to the community," Foreste said. "I never wish to cause this kind of harm again."

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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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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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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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Thursday, April 20, 2017

South Burlington Schools to Be Closed Friday After Repeated Threats

Posted By on Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 8:21 PM

Rebel banners at South Burlington High School - OLIVER PARINI
  • Oliver Parini
  • Rebel banners at South Burlington High School
South Burlington schools will be closed Friday after someone threatened teachers and students alike in an email message sent Thursday.

The district announced the closure Thursday afternoon, hours after the school day ended in a lockdown — for the second day in a row. All students were sent home by bus, even those who normally walk or drive to school, after someone sent an email threatening to kill five teachers and 11 students, WCAX-TV reported.

The email allegedly made reference to the controversial decision to drop the high school's nickname, the Rebels, according to the Burlington Free Press.

"THIS COULD’VE BEEN PREVENTED FROM KEEPING THE REBEL NAME. NOW I’m gonna have to attack you all. I don’t care for my own life as long as you’re all dead!!!!!" the email reads, according to the Free Press.

The name change has stirred up community members. Critics say the Rebel name has racist overtones because it alludes to the Confederate South. Defenders believe the name is innocuous and want to keep it — even though the school board approved a change in February.

The school budget, which includes money to scrub the Rebel name from playing fields, banners and sports jerseys, has twice failed in a vote.

South Burlington schools also went into lockdown Wednesday after threats. Someone emailed threats to the high school and Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School on Tuesday, too, according to WCAX.

A community forum on heroin that was scheduled to be held at the South Burlington High School on Thursday evening was subsequently canceled, police said.

Schools in Essex were locked down and evacuated last week after a threat there. Police later said the incident appeared to be a case of "swatting" — a false report of a crime intended to trigger a massive police response.

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Suit Challenges What Vermont’s AG Can Keep Confidential

Posted By on Fri, Apr 7, 2017 at 12:15 PM

Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan - FILE
  • File
  • Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan
A lawsuit filed by a free-market nonprofit in Washington, D.C., is raising questions about how Vermont’s Office of the Attorney General responds to public records requests.

Last summer, the Energy & Environment Legal Institute asked for information from multiple attorneys general about a potential multi-state investigation into ExxonMobil for spreading misinformation about climate change. The states had signed a pledge not to disclose documents without permission from the group of attorneys general, and the institute wanted records of any requests to share information.

Some states complied with the institute’s request, but Vermont denied it, and the institute sued.

In Washington Superior Court on March 28, chief assistant attorney general Bill Griffin argued that his office acts as the State of Vermont’s legal counsel, and the state’s rules of professional conduct require lawyers to keep communications confidential unless it’s in their client’s interest to release them. The state’s public records act contains an exemption for professionals who are bound by these rules of conduct.

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Scott Keeps Lisa Menard as Corrections Commissioner

Posted By on Thu, Apr 6, 2017 at 5:24 PM

DOC Commissioner Lisa Menard - NANCY REMSEN
  • Nancy Remsen
  • DOC Commissioner Lisa Menard
Gov. Phil Scott announced Thursday that he will keep Lisa Menard in charge of the Department of Corrections.

Menard, who began her three-decade DOC career as a correctional officer, had been serving as acting commissioner since Scott took office in January. Former governor Peter Shumlin named her commissioner in October 2015.

Menard supervises an agency that has more than 1,000 employees and a $157 million budget.

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Migrant Justice Cases Spark Protest at Boston Immigration Court

Posted By on Mon, Mar 27, 2017 at 6:47 PM

Lymarie Deida holds her daughter, Solmarie Carrillo, as she speaks about her husband, Alex Carrillo, at a rally outside a Boston court on Monday. - ELISE AMENDOLA/AP
  • Elise Amendola/AP
  • Lymarie Deida holds her daughter, Solmarie Carrillo, as she speaks about her husband, Alex Carrillo, at a rally outside a Boston court on Monday.
A crowd of activists protested outside a federal courthouse in Boston on Monday as a judge considered setting bail for three detainees associated with Burlington-based Migrant Justice.

Protesters sang and chanted in gloomy weather. Their voices could be heard inside the courtroom in the John F. Kennedy Federal Building where Judge Paul Gagnon presided.

Gagnon set bail for two of the defendants, Enrique Balcazar, 24, and Zully Palacios, 23, at $2,500. They were expected to post bail and be released on Tuesday morning.

Boston immigration attorney Matt Cameron, who represented the three detainees, argued that their ties to the community, activism work and lack of a criminal record made them eligible for minimal bond.

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