Roger Pion ordered to comply with mental health orders

Attorney David Sleigh (left) represents Roger Pion in Orleans Superior Court. Photo by Joseph Gresser

by Joseph Gresser

copyright the Chronicle 9-19-12

NEWPORT — The Newport man who is charged with crushing seven police cruisers with a tractor told friends that God ordered him to hurt someone.  He told a family member that he thought he had a camera in his eye, according to a police affidavit.

In Orleans County Criminal Division of Vermont Superior Court Friday, Roger Pion was ordered by Judge Howard VanBenthuysen to “comply with all the requirements of any mental health treatment plan, to include taking any and all prescribed medications properly and in a timely fashion.”

Mr. Pion posted $50,000 bond at the end of August and has been living under the supervision of his father since then.

Mr. Pion, allegedly ran a tractor over seven vehicles belonging to the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department on August 2.

He allegedly told friends that God ordered him to harm someone.  That information was contained in a motion filed on Friday, September 14, by Deputy Orleans County State’s Attorney James Lillicrap seeking review of Mr. Pion’s conditions of release.

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.

Mr. Pion told his friend 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 planned to do something in two days, but wouldn’t say what it was.  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 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.

In his motion to the court Mr. Lillicrap relied on Lieutenant’s Cooper’s affidavit to request a review of Mr. Pion’s conditions of release.

Mr. Lillicrap wrote: “The State has credible information indicating an immediate danger to the community of repeated acts of violence by the defendant.  A counselor has pursuant to their professional obligation reported a credible threat to law enforcement.  The State seeks judicial review of this matter and a review by mental health of any possible threat posed to the community.”

In his ruling, the judge noted that Mr. Lillicrap had not requested that Mr. Pion be taken into police custody again.  He pointed out that Mr. Lillicrap’s motion included Dr. Norman’s statement that Mr. Pion does not need to be hospitalized.

“Accordingly, the State’s own filing seems to answer the question it was posing concerning risk,” Judge VanBenthuysen wrote.  He then added another condition of release calling for Mr. Pion to take prescribed medications.

On Tuesday, prosecutors added another charge to the long list already facing Mr. Pion in the cruiser crushing case.  He pled innocent to driving with a suspended license for driving the tractor to and from the headquarters of the sheriff’s department.

contact Joseph Gresser at joseph@bartonchronicle.com

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