by Joseph Gresser
copyright the Chronicle 1-9-2013
NEWPORT — The trial of Roger Pion on charges related to the destruction of seven Orleans County police vehicles will not be going forward any time soon. Mr. Pion was found incompetent to aid in his own defense Tuesday after a hearing in the Orleans Criminal Division of Superior Court.
Both Mr. Pion’s lawyer and the Orleans County State’s Attorney agreed that his mental condition will not permit a trial, and Judge Howard VanBenthuysen agreed, scheduling a hospitalization hearing.
Mr. Pion was charged with driving a farm tractor over the sheriff’s vehicles on August 2, 2012.
According to an affidavit from State Police Lieutenant Kirk Cooper, police heard on September 12 that the 34-year-old Newport resident was being “advised by the gods to start shooting people.”
The information came secondhand from an acquaintance of Mr. Pion’s, Lieutenant Cooper said. He said the man who actually heard this from Mr. Pion was reluctant to speak to the police because he feared it would jeopardize his employment, but was getting nervous about being around Mr. Pion because he seemed to be “going off the deep end again.”
Lieutenant Cooper said he sent Trooper Debra Munson to speak with the man who first called them. He told Trooper Munson that he also didn’t want to be involved, but that he didn’t want to feel responsible in case somebody got hurt, Lieutenant Cooper said.
The friend told police that Mr. Pion told him about hearing voices and about a plan to run over sheriff’s cruisers before the vehicles were destroyed on August 2. His friend was worried because he knew Mr. Pion was as good as his word, Lieutenant Cooper said.
Lieutenant Cooper said he got a call on September 12 from a Newport therapist, who said she had spoken with a member of Mr. Pion’s family. The family member told the therapist that Mr. Pion planned to do something two days later at noon, Lieutenant Cooper said.
He said the therapist heard that Mr. Pion wouldn’t say what he planned to do. The therapist said Mr. Pion was delusional and thought he had a camera in his eye, Lieutenant Cooper said.
Lieutenant Cooper said that he called Dr. Bernard Norman shortly after hearing from the therapist and told him what he had heard. On Thursday, September 13, Dr. Norman left a message saying that Mr. Pion had been seen by a psychiatrist who said he did not need to be hospitalized, Lieutenant Cooper said.
At the time, Judge VanBenthuysen ordered Mr. Pion to comply with required mental health treatment, but accepted the therapist’s recommendation and did not revoke his $50,000 bail.
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