Donovan demands evidence of child sex crime charge

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The Vermont attorney general has demanded that attorney Russell Barr turn over evidence to support a claim he made Monday that an official with the Vermont EB-5 Regional Center had sex with a minor in China while on state business.

Barr is representing EB-5 investors who claim the state was complicit in the $200 million fraud at Jay Peak. He made the allegation Monday to the media after a court hearing at the Lamoille County Superior Court in Hyde Park. He refused to provide reporters with the name of the state official, exact dates or the location of the alleged crime.

Attorney General TJ Donovan said in a statement released Tuesday that “any allegation of child sexual abuse by a state official should be investigated regardless of where it occurred.

“I call on Attorney Barr to immediately turn over the evidence he has to the proper authorities whether they be state, federal or international so this matter can be properly investigated,” Donovan wrote.

The AG said his office has twice responded to records requests, once in 2014 and again in November 2017, for information about the “arrest, detainment or holding of any state employee while traveling overseas in promotion of the Vermont Regional Center and its related projects.” He said the most recent request for documents about an alleged arrest was made by Barr Law Group.

Russell Barr
Attorney Russell Barr speaks at a news conference in October. He has sued former state officials and the Vermont EB-5 Regional Center, alleging fraud. File photo by Mark Johnson/VTDigger

The AG’s office determined that there were no records from the commerce agency or the governor’s office that were responsive to the request. In an interview, Donovan reiterated that he has “no evidence in our possession that this allegation occurred.”

“If Russell Barr has evidence, I am calling him to turn it over to proper authorities, state and federal,” Donovan said. “If there is evidence a state official committed child sex abuse there will be a full investigation. There is no evidence that such an event occurred.”

In a statement, Barr did not say whether he would provide the Vermont attorney general with evidence to back up his claim. He said the attorney general’s statement showed that the office had not met its own expectations regarding allegations of child sexual abuse.

“It has known about these allegations for almost four years,” Barr said. “What investigation did it conduct when it learned about them and what were the results of that investigation? Did they question the officials on these trips? Did they put them under oath? What did they learn? Or did they intentionally avoid opening an inquiry?”

Donovan says his predecessor, Bill Sorrell, did not investigate when questions were raised in 2014 about an arrest overseas. And the AG gave no indication he would begin a probe of the allegations.

Donovan claimed he can’t interview former Vermont EB-5 Regional Center officials without evidence that the allegation is true.

In response to a question about whether he could pursue a probe based on allegations, Donovan equivocated. “If this did occur, and there is no such evidence, there will be a full investigation,” Donovan said. “There will be a full investigation into any coverup that occurred.”

Since March 2016, all records requests about the state’s involvement in the EB-5 program, including correspondence about Jay Peak from the governor’s office, have been blocked by the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, which has cited exemptions for relevant litigation, attorney-client privilege and executive privilege.

Consequently, trip schedules are unavailable for former Gov. Peter Shumlin and officials who worked with the Vermont EB-5 Regional Center, including the secretaries and general counsel for the commerce agency; former directors of the center James Candido and Brent Raymond; and Becky Fu, the manager of international trade for the center.

In September 2013, Shumlin went to China with an entourage of state officials from the commerce agency, his security detail, Jay Peak CEO Bill Stenger and Alex MacLean, who left the Shumlin administration to become a project manager for Jay Peak. The purpose of the $100,000, 10-day junket paid for by the developers was to solicit investors for the resort.

Donovan couldn’t say whether records from the Department of Public Safety, which has oversight of the governor’s security detail, had been provided to those requesting records.

“I don’t know if a request was made to the Department of Public Safety,” Donovan said, adding that he would be “troubled” if there are any existing records about an alleged arrest overseas that had not been disclosed by the department.

The former commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Safety, Keith Flynn, works for the Vermont Attorney General.

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