Dismissal of murder charge sought

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copyright the Chronicle January 17, 2018

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — According to a motion filed by Jon Valsangiacomo, the lawyer representing Ryan P. Bacon, 32, of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, the state cannot prove his client committed second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. Mr. Valsangiacomo has filed a motion in the Criminal Division of Orleans County Superior Court asking Judge Robert Bent to dismiss charges against his client.

Mr. Bacon is facing felony charges of second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter in the death of Ron-Lou Schneider who was shot in Greensboro in 2015.

He was originally charged with first-degree murder by Orleans County State’s Attorney Jennifer Barrett, but Ms. Barrett later amended that charge down to second-degree murder and added a charge of voluntary manslaughter.

Ms. Barrett said this week that she has been engrossed in preparing for another murder trial, that of Jeffrey Ray, and has not prepared an answer to Mr. Valsangiacomo’s motion.

By arguing against the state’s ability to prove the lesser of the two charges, Mr. Valsangiacomo effectively struck at the more serious. Without proving a person intended to kill, or intended to do great bodily harm, or showing a wanton disregard that a likelihood of death or great bodily injury would result from his actions, the standard for voluntary manslaughter, it is impossible to get a conviction for either charge.

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Fire destroys Barton restaurant

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copyright the Chronicle January 10, 2018

 

by Tena Starr and Joseph Gresser

 

BARTON — Fire destroyed Ming’s House, the Chinese restaurant here, on Friday. The tricky fire started at around 2 p.m. Barton Fire Chief Kevin Tartaglio, who arrived on the scene just minutes after the department was toned out, said he didn’t get back to the station until around 11:30 or midnight.

About 30 firefighters from Barton, Orleans, Glover, and Irasburg helped battle what could hardly be called a blaze.

Instead, Barton was filled with brown smoke so thick that sometimes it was impossible to even see the restaurant.

Chief Tartaglio said state fire investigators came up on Monday and will issue a report sometime this week. He added that it was an accidental fire.

A neighboring business owner said the owner of Ming’s told him it started as a grease fire.

Chief Tartaglio said it was a “major fire because of the weather,” which was frigid that day.

He said that when he arrived the interior was engulfed in flames, and the whole building was filled with smoke.

“I put a firefighter on one side to protect Rock Insurance and another one on the other to protect the house,” the chief said. “We ran water until we could attempt the interior.”

He said that, as soon as he realized what was going on, he called in mutual aid.

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Work on Newport Center water to start soon

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copyright the Chronicle January 10, 2018

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT CENTER — When voters here went to the polls last April to decide whether or not to approve a $745,000 bond to improve the village water system, they took a risk.

Town officials said the town might be eligible for a sizeable grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development program, but they would not find out for sure unless the bond was approved.

Townspeople leapt into the unknown, approving the bond measure by a vote of 95 to 13, and they were rewarded when the USDA approved a $695,000 grant soon afterward.

Work on the project, which includes drilling two new wells, putting in a treatment facility to remove arsenic and manganese from water, and installing the electrical and plumbing connections needed to keep the new wells flowing, is scheduled to start soon, said Newport Center Clerk Denise Daigle Tuesday.

“The grant funds will kick in after the town spends a couple of hundreds of thousand dollars,” she said, speaking of the town’s share of the project’s costs.

Ms. Daigle said it is “way too early to tell” if the grant will lower the cost of water to people now on the system.

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Brownington murder trial set for end of month

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copyright the Chronicle January 3, 2018

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — Jeffrey M. Ray, 53, of Brownington will face a jury rather than try to negotiate a reduction in the first-degree murder charge he faces in the shooting death of Rick Vreeland. Mr. Ray has been held without bail since he entered an innocent plea to the charge in May of 2015.

According to police affidavits, Mr. Ray had a blood alcohol level three times higher than the legal limit when he shot the 53-year-old Mr. Vreeland, who was married to Mr. Ray’s ex-wife.

On Tuesday Mr. Ray appeared with his lawyer, Kyle Hatt, for a pretrial conference in the Criminal Division of Orleans County Superior Court. Judge Robert Bent asked Mr. Hatt if there is a possibility of settling the case before it goes before a jury and received a firm “no” for an answer.

Mr. Hatt and Orleans County State’s Attorney Jennifer Barrett, who will prosecute the case, are scheduled to select a jury on January 22. If all goes as planned, the trial will start the next day.

Judge Bent has blocked out nine days for the trial, which could run through February 1.

On Tuesday Mr. Hatt asked if special questions he had drawn up had been added to the normal queries put to potential jurors in a questionnaire sent out before they are asked to appear in court. They had been.

Mr. Hatt also told Judge Bent that he intends to place a blood alcohol test performed at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in the record as evidence. He said that may require the technician who performed the test to testify in court unless Ms. Barrett agrees to stipulate to the person’s qualifications.

“I encourage people to agree to what they can agree to,” Judge Bent said.

Ms. Barrett did not say what she intends to do.

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Irasburg man pleads innocent to poaching moose

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copyright the Chronicle January 3, 2018

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — The man who game wardens say killed a cow moose, dragged it behind his truck from Westmore to Barton, and left its carcass beside the road to rot has denied the stack of charges against him.

Gerin J. Fortin, 21, of Irasburg, appeared in the Criminal Division of Orleans Superior Court on December 26 and pled innocent to two charges of taking game by an illegal method, that is, shooting from a vehicle; taking a big game animal by illegal means; possessing a big game animal taken by illegal means or out of season; transporting big game taken by illegal means, or out of season; and taking a moose out of season.

All the charges are misdemeanors, but if found guilty, Mr. Fortin could face a year in jail and have to pay as much as $8,000 in fines and restitution.

In his affidavit, Game Warden Thomas Scott said he got a call on September 23 telling him about a dead cow moose found off the Hollow Road in Barton. Warden Jason Dukette, who was on duty, went to Barton and found the moose.

He said the condition of the carcass and a two-foot-wide bloody drag mark showed it had been dragged to the place where it was found. Warden Dukette noticed two gunshot wounds on the moose.

The warden followed the drag marks to Town Highway 5, a Class Four road, in Westmore, where Warden Scott joined him. They continued to follow the trail, which led to a hay field. Tire marks were clearly visible on either side of the drag mark in the tall grass.

At the northern edge of the field, the wardens said they found blood, moose hair, a spent .30-06 Remington rifle casing, a tin of Wintergreen Copenhagen long cut chewing tobacco, an empty Budweiser beer can, and a foam beer koozie.

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NCUHS spending down

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copyright the Chronicle January 3, 2018

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — At its December 19 meeting, North Country Union High School got a first look at a budget proposal for the 2018-2019 school year.

A draft already approved by the board’s Business Operations Committee calls for spending $10.9-million, $302,320 less than the $11.2-million budget approved by voters on Town Meeting Day. The proposed budget calls for spending to drop 2.7 percent in the coming year compared to this.

North Country Career Center would see a similar decline in its budget, which would tick down from $3.185-million in the 2017-2018 school year to $3.101-million in the 2019 fiscal year. An $84,169 spending cut would represent a 2.64 percent budget reduction.

While the North Country board will vote on the career center budget it has no part in drawing up the spending plan. That task, according to state law, belongs to a regional advisory board.

Career center funding doesn’t come directly from taxpayers, so its budget doesn’t have a direct effect on tax rates.

According to North Country Supervisory Union Director of Business and Finance Glenn Hankinson, taxpayers can expect to see a rise in the statewide education rate, but not entirely because of local spending.

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Snowmobiles will be able to reach downtown Newport

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copyright the Chronicle December 20, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — The Newport City Council found it much easier Monday to agree to a moderate increase in charges for Newport Ambulance’s services, and to pass a budget, than to decide whether to allow snowmobiles to use a residential street to reach downtown merchants. But after a couple of hours of discussion, council members heeded the urging of merchants and gave the green light to the snow travelers.

Council members seemed torn Monday between their desire to help boost business during the winter months and their sympathy for residents of Broadview Avenue who complained their peaceful lives are being sacrificed to enhance economic development.

Even Gillian Staniforth, the most outspoken of Broadview’s residents, expressed support for the idea of promoting commerce by allowing winter travelers to drive their snowmobiles downtown. Her objection, she said, was only to the route chosen by Roger Gosselin, the representative of the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST) who brought the idea of easing access to downtown Newport to the council early this month.

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Wells responds to Caledonian-Record suit

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copyright the Chronicle December 13, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

Kenneth Wells, the former publisher of the Newport Daily Express, responded on December 7 to a civil lawsuit filed by the Caledonian-Record accusing him of racketeering.

On Monday Mr. Wells told the Chronicle he wrote the response himself.

“I went through nine drafts,” he said. He said he ran his reply by several lawyers of his acquaintance, but decided not to hire an attorney at this stage of the proceedings.

In his response, Mr. Wells offered a firm denial of allegations that he used the Caledonian-Record’s password to download photographs from the Associated Press (AP) and overstated his paper’s circulation figures to gain a competitive advantage over the St. Johnsbury based paper.

Mr. Wells asserted the complaint was an effort by the Caledonian-Record’s owner to destroy a smaller rival. The Caledonian-Record is a family-owned newspaper based in St. Johnsbury with two regional editions, the Orleans County Record and Littleton Record.

The Newport Daily Express is owned by Horizon Vermont, a part of Horizon Publications of Marion, Illinois. Horizon Publications owns 21 daily papers and 14 weeklies around the country, most published in small communities.

The Newport Daily and its parent company were also named in the complaint. The suit claims both participated in the racketeering enterprise by allowing Mr. Wells to misbehave.

Mr. Wells was fired as publisher of the Newport Daily in November of 2016. The newspaper offered no explanation for ending his employment.

Neither Horizon nor the Newport Daily have responded to the Caledonian-Record’s suit.

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Plan pitched to get snow machines in Newport

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copyright the Chronicle December 6, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — Snow machine travelers will be able ride to the East Side Restaurant and Waterfront Plaza if the city council approves the plan that Roger Gosselin, VAST’s Orleans County director, presented at Monday’s council meeting.

Newport is missing out on business from tourists who cover long distances during the winter, Mr. Gosselin said. The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers maintains a trail to Prouty Beach and an east-west route across Lake Memphremagog, but at present, riders have no way to get further into the city, he said.

He suggested the city try allowing snowmobile traffic for a year and make adjustments if and when problems arise.

Mr. Gosselin proposed a route that would direct snow machines along Broadview Avenue. That part of the plan drew strong opposition from Gillian Staniforth, a resident of the avenue who said other homeowners she has spoken to share her dislike of the plan.

While Mr. Gosselin presented numerous examples of snow machine traffic in urban areas in Quebec and Island Pond, Ms. Staniforth said Broadview Avenue, despite its name, is a narrow street closely lined with homes.

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Milk commission formulates strategy for federal farm bill

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copyright the Chronicle December 6, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

BERLIN — The newly revived Vermont Milk Commission held its fourth meeting on Friday and considered, among other topics, ways to encourage people to consume more milk, and a possible adjustment to the way milk prices are calculated to take better account of how milk is actually used.

At its most recent session, the Legislature passed a law requiring the commission to meet by October to offer guidance to the Vermont congressional delegation as it participates in drawing up a new farm bill in 2018. Federal farm bills, which run for five years, set policy for all aspects of the nation’s agricultural economy, and the Legislature wanted to make sure Vermont’s voice is heard on issues affecting the dairy industry.

The milk commission had not met for six years before October, and the terms of all members expired during that time. Governor Phil Scott and legislative leaders appointed nine new members, and the commission set to work.

At their latest meeting, members heard from Paul Ziemnisky, senior vice-president of Global Innovation Partnerships.

Mr. Ziemnisky is a branding and marketing expert working for Dairy Management Inc., a trade association funded through the U.S. Dairy Promotion Program, which gets its money from mandated checkoff fees on dairy products and federal tax dollars.

He said he is working to increase milk consumption. Mr. Ziemnisky said overall milk use has been increasing, but less fluid milk is being consumed.

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