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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Vermont Lawmakers Question Untreated Inmates and Unspent Money

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2018 at 5:54 PM

  • File: James Buck
Vermont legislators are questioning why so few inmates receive hepatitis C treatment, and they're demanding to know what happened to $2.2 million of state money that was designated for prison health care.

The state’s chief health care advocate, Michael Fisher, told the Joint Legislative Justice Oversight Committee on Thursday that the Department of Corrections had only treated one inmate for hepatitis C in 2017.

Antiviral drugs can cure hepatitis C, an infectious disease that can lead to liver cancer and other potentially fatal complications. The virus, transmitted by blood, is more common among prisoners than the general population.

Fisher also directed lawmakers' attention to a significant amount of unspent money. In 2017, the Department of Corrections paid about $4.8 million to its private health care contractor, Centurion, for pharmaceutical drugs and off-site medical expenses, according to information Fisher provided the committee. Centurion only spent about $2.6 million, however.

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Few Vermont Inmates Receive Hepatitis C Treatment

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2018 at 11:32 AM

  • Matt Morris
In August, 250 inmates in Vermont prisons had hepatitis C, but just eight of them received treatment for the infectious, potentially deadly virus that can damage the liver. The number of those treated is actually an increase over 2017, when the Vermont Department of Corrections appears to have provided hepatitis C medication to just one inmate, according to its own data.

The state’s chief health care advocate, Michael Fisher called the statistics “very, very concerning.”

Fisher was part of a coalition of organizations that successfully pushed the state’s Medicaid health insurance program to start paying this year for hepatitis C medication for patients who don’t yet have liver damage.

Now advocates are turning their attention to Vermont’s prisons, where alarmingly few inmates are receiving the antiviral drugs that can cure hepatitis C, according to Fisher.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Vermont Inmates Moving to CoreCivic Prison in Mississippi

Posted By on Wed, Sep 19, 2018 at 10:04 AM

Lee Adjustment Center in Kentucky, where CoreCivic (then called Corrections Corporation of America) housed Vermont inmates until 2015. - FILE PHOTO
  • File Photo
  • Lee Adjustment Center in Kentucky, where CoreCivic (then called Corrections Corporation of America) housed Vermont inmates until 2015.
Vermont’s out-of-state inmate population is moving to a private prison in Mississippi, the Department of Corrections announced Wednesday morning.

The Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility is operated by CoreCivic, the corporate prison contractor formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America.

Vermont will pay CoreCivic $71 per day for each of the state’s roughly 200 inmates who are housed out of state, according to a Vermont DOC press release. There is room for up to 350 Vermont inmates in the 2,600-person facility in Tutwiler, Miss. The per diem amount will increase annually; the contract runs for a minimum of two years with an option for two more.

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Friday, September 7, 2018

Burlington Police, Mayor Criticize Prosecutors for Not Charging Suspect

Posted By on Fri, Sep 7, 2018 at 1:47 PM

Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo at a press conference - FILE: SARA TABIN
  • File: Sara Tabin
  • Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo at a press conference
Updated at 5:20 p.m.

In a highly unusual move, Burlington police on Friday publicly criticized prosecutors for not pursuing criminal charges against a Colchester man who claimed self-defense for his role in a downtown shooting that injured an innocent bystander.

Carl Martin was charged in August with aggravated assault, aggravated disorderly conduct and reckless endangerment for his alleged actions in the February incident.

According to police, Martin's brother had a long-simmering dispute with Rashad Nashid over a woman. The men ran into each other at Nectar's on Main Street one February night and began arguing. Nashid later left and went next door to Esox, another bar.

But he and Carl Martin continued to argue while both were outside smoking. Martin eventually punched Nashid in the face, prompting both men to pull handguns. Nashid fired, according to cops, hitting the 27-year-old bystander.

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Friday, August 31, 2018

Vermont Supreme Court Upholds Revenge Porn Law

Posted By on Fri, Aug 31, 2018 at 1:51 PM

Vermont Supreme Court - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • Vermont Supreme Court
The Vermont Supreme Court on Friday upheld a state law banning “revenge porn,” saying the statute does not violate First Amendment protections.

In a long-awaited decision, justices ruled 4-1 that the 2015 law, which forbids the distribution of sexually explicit images without the subject’s consent, is constitutional.

In an interview, Defender General Matt Valerio called the decision "bizarre," and said his office is contemplating a U.S. Supreme Court appeal.

Justices said revenge porn represents the "highest" violation of privacy, noting that it is illegal for doctors or banks to disclose personal information about patients or clients. Forty states have enacted laws against revenge porn, justices wrote.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Ballot Justice: Primary Results for Prosecutors, Judges and Sheriffs

Posted By on Tue, Aug 14, 2018 at 11:57 PM

Paul Finnerty and Todd Shove
  • Paul Finnerty and Todd Shove
Updated at 11:26 a.m. on August 15, 2018.

Some of Vermont's most competitive primaries Tuesday were at the county level. The campaign season was unusually intense for judgeships in Chittenden County. Elsewhere, three county prosecutors fought — one unsuccessfully — to keep their jobs.

Here is what happened in some of the races we've been following:

Lamoille County State's Attorney Paul Finnerty lost the Democratic primary to challenger Todd Shove. With all but one district reporting Tuesday night, Shove won with 50.3 percent to Finnerty's 34.2 percent. Finnerty, who is serving his first four-year term, promoted restorative justice during his time in office.

Shove, a career prosecutor who recently left his job to campaign, criticized Finnerty for taking the concept too far. He also campaigned on the promise of improving the relationship between prosecutors and law enforcement.

In Essex County, longtime state's attorney and former state senator Vincent Illuzzi eked out a 288 to 248 victory against political newcomer Amy Davis in the Republican primary.

Davis, 31, handles divorce, custody and family cases as a partner at the firm Bucknam Black Davis. During the campaign, she criticized Illuzzi for not giving enough attention to his part-time job as county prosecutor, which he has held since 1998. Illuzzi also works as a lobbyist for the Vermont State Employees' Association in Montpelier.

Bennington County Democrats also stuck with their prosecutor: State’s Attorney Erica Marthage beat challenger Arnie Gottlieb by just 136 votes — less than 3 percent of votes cast.
Marthage is known for her aggressive prosecutorial approach. Seven Days reported in 2016 that Bennington County, under Marthage's leadership, imprisoned more people per capita than any other county in Vermont. Gottlieb, a veteran defense attorney, called Marthage’s style overzealous.

In Chittenden County, Sheriff Kevin McLaughlin held a strong lead — 54 percent to 25 percent — in the Democratic primary against his longtime deputy Michael Major. McLaughlin has been in the office since 1987, making him the longest-serving sheriff in county history.

Major, a 34-year veteran of the department, said during the campaign that he wanted to expand the department’s budget and staff by securing new contracts to provide law enforcement staffing. He expressed support for stationing an armed deputy at all of the county’s schools.
There were four other primaries for sheriff positions in Vermont:

  • In Addison County, Peter Newton beat Ron Holmes in the Democratic primary to replace outgoing Sheriff Donald Keeler Jr.

  • Bennington County Democrats chose incumbent Chad Schmidt over challenger James Gulley Jr.

  • Caledonia county's Republican sheriff, Dean Shatney, beat out challenger Lester Cleary III.

  • Orleans County Sheriff Kirk Martin beat Jennifer Harlow Jacobs in the Republican primary.
In Chittenden county, Probate Judge Gregory Glennon defeated former Winooski mayor Bill Norful, who was challenging him for the job.
Glennon, the brother-in-law of Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan, has been on the job since he was appointed by then-governor Peter Shumlin in 2016.

In a four-way race for two assistant judgeships in Chittenden county, newcomer Suzanne Brown and incumbent Connie Cain Ramsey beat out Assistant Judge Charles Delaney and challenger Zachary York.

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Monday, July 23, 2018

Vermont AG: It's Illegal for Businesses to 'Gift' Marijuana

Posted By on Mon, Jul 23, 2018 at 11:36 AM

  • Luke Eastman
Updated at 12:35 p.m.

This gift won't legally keep giving.

Selling an item or offering a service that comes with some "free" cannabis is illegal under Vermont's new recreational marijuana law, Attorney General T.J. Donovan declared in an advisory Monday.

The interpretation of the law, which went into effect July 1 and is known as Act 86, comes after several businesses cropped up offering cannabis, edibles and vape cartridges in exchange for a delivery fee. Some entrepreneurs were also selling an overpriced item such as a sticker, T-shirt or bracelet and would throw in a "gift" of marijuana on the side. That kind of transaction is considered a marijuana sale, according to Donovan.

"Any transfer of marijuana for money, barter, or other legal consideration remains illegal under Vermont law," Donovan wrote in the advisory. He added: "Individuals may gift pursuant to the parameters set forth in the law."

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Friday, June 29, 2018

Vermont Farmworker Jailed After Arrest by ICE

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2018 at 4:01 PM

Alejandro Hernández-Ventura - COURTESY: MIGRANT JUSTICE
  • Courtesy: Migrant Justice
  • Alejandro Hernández-Ventura
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have arrested another Vermont farmworker, according to a statement released Friday by Migrant Justice.

Alejandro Hernández-Ventura, 25, was being held at the Strafford County, N.H., detention center in lieu of an $8,000 bond, the group said.

Shortly after leaving home on a dairy farm in Addison County on Sunday, according to an account from Migrant Justice, Hernández-Ventura and his wife noticed that their car was being followed. They pulled over after ICE officers flashed their vehicle lights. The agents pulled the Mexican man out of his car and handcuffed him before driving off.

According to Migrant Justice, Hernández-Ventura has never been arrested or had any previous contact with ICE during the nine years he's been in Vermont.

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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Leahy Bill Would Limit Feds' Authority to Search Near Borders

Posted By on Thu, Jun 28, 2018 at 3:44 PM

  • Kym Balthazar
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced legislation Thursday that would reduce the area near international borders where federal agents are allowed to conduct warrantless searches.

United States Border Patrol agents have for years established temporary checkpoints along Interstate 91 in southern Vermont to ask motorists about their citizenship and where they’re going. Some are detained for additional questioning. Because the checkpoint is within 100 miles of the Canadian border, federal law allows agents to do that without a warrant.

Federal law gives authorities expanded power near the borders in order to protect national security. But Leahy said in a statement that a range of 100 miles from the border is unreasonable. The new legislation, cosponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington), would shrink the that zone from 100 to 25 miles.

"[T]his 100-mile zone is neither limited nor reasonable," Leahy said. "It includes marine borders. At present, it encompasses almost two-thirds of the population of the United States. This includes major cities such as New York, Seattle, Chicago, New Orleans and Los Angeles, even the 'border town' of Richmond, Va., as well as entire states such as Maine, Delaware, and Florida."

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Vermont State Police Talk Changes in Enforcement With New Weed Law

Posted By on Tue, Jun 19, 2018 at 5:50 PM

Lt. John Flannigan - SARA TABIN
  • Sara Tabin
  • Lt. John Flannigan
Recreational cannabis will be legalized July 1 in Vermont, but driving under the influence of drugs remains dangerous and illegal, Vermont State Police warned Tuesday during a wide-ranging discussion with the media about law enforcement changes surrounding the new law.

Cannabis-sniffing canines will be given new assignments and the agency has considered purchasing scales for patrol cars so troopers can weigh motorists' weed, according to Capt. James Whitcomb. Possession of more than one ounce of cannabis is illegal, according to Act 86, Vermont's new recreational marijuana law.

Tuesday's talk at state police headquarters in Waterbury came less than two weeks before weed legalization takes effect. And though the date is coming ever closer, Whitcomb said state police won't be more lenient in the intervening 11 days.

"There has been no easing of enforcement," Whitcomb said. "July 1 is a hard date."

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