GMP agrees to pay Chronicle publisher

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by Paul Lefebvre

Phil White, left, and Chris Braithwaite in Vermont Superior Court.  Photo by Paul Lefebvre
Phil White, left, and Chris Braithwaite in Vermont Superior Court. Photo by Paul Lefebvre

copyright the Chronicle 2-27-2013

Two months after it was filed, Chronicle publisher Chris Braithwaite has prevailed in his suit against the utility and wind developer Green Mountain Power (GMP).

In an announcement Tuesday, Mr. Braithwaite said GMP has agreed to pay the legal fees that he incurred fighting a criminal charge of unlawful trespass brought against him while covering a wind protest as a reporter on Lowell Mountain in December 2011.

GMP will pay Mr. Braithwaite $22,500, the amount requested by his attorney, Philip White of Newport.

Mr. Braithwaite called the settlement “a fair resolution of this matter,” in a press release Tuesday.

In his statement, Mr. Braithwaite also said he had learned that David Coriell, the GMP agent at the mountain, was acting in good faith when he instructed police to arrest him for trespass.

Information discovered by Mr. White indicated that Mr. Coriell had failed to carry out GMP’s instructions that reporters covering the protests should not be arrested.

When Mr. White brought that evidence to light, Judge Howard VanBenthuysen threw the charge out and later dismissed with prejudice, which barred the state’s attorney from refilling it.

Once the criminal case was dismissed, Mr. Braithwaite sued the utility company.

GMP spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure said Tuesday that the company settled despite its belief it would prevail in court on the basis of the facts and law.

“We realized the settlement would be in the best interests of our customers,” she said, adding that GMP could have spent up to $100,000 in litigation.

“That would not have benefited our customers.”

Mr. White praised Mr. Braithwaite in a written statement Tuesday.

“I’m glad Chris stood up for the press, and for his ability to cover this story,” he wrote.  “I’m also glad that GMP had the wisdom and the foresight to settle this civil case promptly.”

contact Paul Lefebvre at [email protected]

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