Man sent to prison for seventh DUI conviction

Featured

copyright the Chronicle September 27, 2017

 

by Paul Lefebvre

 

NEWPORT — As he sifted through the records of a 49-year-old alcoholic who had recently been convicted of driving while under the influence for the seventh time (DUI-7), Judge Robert Bent appeared to be looking for a sentencing option other than the six to 11 years recommended by the plea agreement.

All the evidence of a contested sentencing here Tuesday in the Criminal Division of Orleans County Superior was in.

But as the judge shuffled records around, he couldn’t find one. What he found instead was a stiffer recommendation from the Department of Corrections that four more years be added to the minimum or bottom line of Desmond Durivage’s pending sentence. And he didn’t want to go there.

He noted that efforts had been made to help Mr. Durivage go straight, but added that alcoholism is a disease marked by exacerbation, or what he recalled the comic Robin Williams characterized as “the elephant in the room.”

The judge said he felt saddened by what he was going to impose as a sentence — “like to see a better way” — but he went along with the plea agreement and sentenced Mr. Durivage to serve an underlying sentence of six to 11 years.

While the defense was seeking a lighter sentence with more emphasis on probation, Judge Bent sided with the prosecution’s call for an incarcerated sentence.

State’s Attorney Jennifer Barrett argued that, despite opportunities, Mr. Durivage still had not learned to separate his drinking from his driving. He still remains a risk to public safety, she said.

To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe to the online edition below:

Annual online subscription

Short-term online subscription

Print subscription

(To find a particular article, search for the corresponding edition of the newspaper)

Share

Broken family wants case resolved

Featured

copyright the Chronicle September 13, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

When Katrina McCullough of Newport called police last December and accused her husband of bending her fingers back, she had no idea what the consequences of her actions would turn out to be.

Today she finds herself in danger of losing her house and faces severe economic challenges despite having a good job. Ryan McCullough, her husband, lives in a homeless shelter for veterans in Norwich, and the couple’s children see their father only rarely.

Because Orleans County Superior Court has a heavy backlog of cases awaiting trial, the McCulloughs will not see a resolution until January at the earliest.

Ms. McCullough says she was in the clutches of severe mental distress when she dialed the phone in December. Knowing what she does now, she strongly regrets making that call.

Mr. McCullough is facing misdemeanor and felony charges of domestic abuse and, despite filing a speedy trial motion in June, is not scheduled for trial until January.

He had been scheduled for trial in August, but the court schedule was changed and he must now wait an additional five months for resolution.

As a result, Ms. McCullough said in a recent interview, her husband is in the shelter while she and her two daughters are facing the prospect of losing the family house for lack of money to pay the mortgage. Mr. McCullough, a veteran who has struggled with PTSD, cannot stay in the shelter past January and will be homeless in winter if the situation is not resolved by then, his wife said.

To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe to the online edition below:

Annual online subscription

Short-term online subscription

Print subscription

(To find a particular article, search for the corresponding edition of the newspaper)

Share

Judge says impaired murder suspect understood rights

Featured

copyright the Chronicle August 30, 2017

 

by Paul Lefebvre

 

NEWPORT — Can an inebriated murder suspect understand the rights he has given up when consenting to talk to police at the time of his arrest?

In a 12-page ruling following hearings and expert testimony, Orleans County Superior Court Judge Howard VanBenthuysen has ruled he can.

The judge’s ruling derails a defense motion to suppress evidence gained when accused murderer Jeffrey Ray, 53, of Brownington waived his Miranda rights and talked to police.

Mr. Ray, who remains in custody, has pled innocent to murdering his ex-wife’s husband on May 24, 2015, in Brownington.

The judge’s ruling, which is expected to clear the way for an early trial next year, came in the face of conflicting testimony from two experts and testimony from police.

According to Judge VanBenthuysen’s “Finding of Facts,” State Police Detective Sergeant Jacob Zoen interviewed the defendant at North Country Hospital roughly an hour after the shooting.

At that initial interview, according to the court’s findings, the detective did not note “any signs or symptoms of alcohol impairment.” Mr. Ray told the detective that he understood his rights and signed the Miranda form after it had been read to him.

The interview lasted 52 minutes and, at some point, the detective did note “a slight odor of intoxicants on the defendant.”

To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe to the online edition below:

Annual online subscription

Short-term online subscription

Print subscription

(To find a particular article, search for the corresponding edition of the newspaper)

Share

Man charged in Newport knife fight

Featured

copyright the Chronicle August 23, 2017

 

by Paul Lefebvre

 

NEWPORT — A knife-swinging melee in downtown Newport Saturday night has led to charges here this week in Orleans County Superior Court.

As the only suspect cited for his role in the fracas, Everett Wilson, 26, of Newport pled innocent to both a felony charge of aggravated assault with a weapon and to a companion misdemeanor of possessing a narcotic.

Mr. Wilson was released on conditions, including a nighttime curfew, a ban on possessing weapons, and a restriction from going into bars or liquor stores.

The charges arose out of what police say was a large fight fueled by blame and mistrust that one of the combatants was a snitch, who had informed on drug dealers or users.

It was late Saturday night on August 19 when Newport police arrived at the downtown intersection of Central and Main. They were responding to reports that people were fighting in the streets, and that one was armed with a knife, according to the affidavit of Newport Patrolman Tanner Jacobs.

Police say they corralled two men, including Mr. Wilson, and were holding them at gunpoint when a third man aggressively approached them with blood on his right hand and arm.

To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe to the online edition below:

Annual online subscription

Short-term online subscription

Print subscription

(To find a particular article, search for the corresponding edition of the newspaper)

Share

Defendants can have long jail wait before trial

Featured

copyright the Chronicle July 26, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — According to the U.S. and Vermont constitutions, anyone charged with a crime is entitled to a speedy trial by a jury of his or her peers. But that basic promise can’t be kept in Orleans County because of a lack of money for lawyers, judges, and other court employees, say those who know the system best.

At present, more than 40 people who have pled innocent to crimes in Orleans County Superior Court are behind bars waiting for their trial because they cannot make bail. Some have been waiting for years, and with a court that can manage only a few trials a month they may be waiting for quite a while longer.

The judge in Orleans County Superior Court, the Orleans County State’s Attorney, and the county’s public defender have different views of the situation, but all agree that the judicial system needs more resources if it hopes to break the logjam.

While a vast majority of criminal cases are settled through negotiations resulting in a plea agreement, the bail system was never intended as a means to pressure people to give up their right to a trial.

In fact, the Vermont Constitution gives a substantial amount of attention to the matter of bail. It specifically bans “excessive bail” and sets strict limits on the ability of a judge to hold a person without bail.

The two circumstances in which that is permitted are cases where the penalty is death or life imprisonment, or in acts of violence against another person. In either case, the judge has to determine that the evidence of guilt is strong.

To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe to the online edition below:

Annual online subscription

Short-term online subscription

Print subscription

(To find a particular article, search for the corresponding edition of the newspaper)

Share

Murder charge reduced to second-degree

Featured

copyright the Chronicle May 31, 2017

 

by Joseph Gresser

 

NEWPORT — Orleans County State’s Attorney Jennifer Barrett lowered the charge against the man accused of shooting Ron-Lou Schneider in 2015 from first-degree to second-degree murder Tuesday afternoon.

Ms. Barrett also added a charge of manslaughter against Ryan P. Bacon, 32, of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, during a hearing held in the Criminal Division of Orleans County Superior Court.

Both charges are based on the same set of facts, so Mr. Bacon can only be convicted of one of the charges, Ms. Barrett said after the court hearing.

Judge Howard VanBenthuysen presided over the hearing.

Ms. Barrett said she and Jon Valsangiacomo, Mr. Bacon’s lawyer, will discuss the possibility of a plea agreement and will return to court in two weeks for another status conference.

If the two sides cannot agree on a deal to settle the case, Ms. Barrett said, she will go to trial on one of the charges.

Witnesses to the shooting gave conflicting statements to police, Ms. Barrett said. As a result, it is doubtful that the state could prove the most serious charge, she said.

Under Vermont law, first-degree murder is one “committed by means of poison, or by lying in wait, or by willful, deliberate and premeditated killing, or committed in perpetrating or attempting to perpetrate arson, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery or burglary.”

Any other homicide is considered second-degree murder. Manslaughter refers to killing someone when under sudden passion or great provocation that would mitigate, but not justify, the killing.

To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe to the online edition below:

Annual online subscription

Short-term online subscription

Print subscription

(To find a particular article, search for the corresponding edition of the newspaper)

Share

Diaz pleads the Fifth, then testifies

Featured

copyright the Chronicle February 1, 2017

 

by Elizabeth Trail

 

NEWPORT — Immediately after she took the witness stand in Orleans County Superior Court on Monday, Cynthia Diaz invoked the Fifth Amendment.

“Hadn’t you better hear the questions first?” Judge Howard VanBenthuysen asked Ms. Diaz, who appeared in court without an attorney. “Some of them might be to your benefit to answer.”

The Coventry town clerk, treasurer, and delinquent tax collector was back in court to answer a motion for contempt. It was filed on behalf of the town by attorney Paul Gillies after she allegedly failed to meet a December 30 deadline to turn over all original town documents in her possession.

Ms. Diaz brought a thumb drive and a foot-thick stack of papers to court on Monday but that didn’t even come close to being what the town of Coventry believes is missing.

After a lengthy recess to allow Mr. Gillies, forensic accountant Jeff Graham, and 
Coventry Selectman Scott Morley time to look over the documents, Mr. Gillies pronounced them “insufficient.”

“The missing records we asked for would fill a six-foot by six-foot square about six feet tall,” Mr. Graham told Judge VanBenthuysen, “not the small pile she brought to court today.”

“Are these all the town documents you have?” the judge asked Ms. Diaz.

“All the original town documents, yes,” Ms. Diaz replied, stressing the word “original.”

Judge VanBenthuysen ordered Ms. Diaz to hand over all town records in her possession, whether she considered them original or not.

To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe to the online edition below:

Annual online subscription

Short-term online subscription

Print subscription

(To find a particular article, search for the corresponding edition of the newspaper)

Share

DUI formula too simplistic

Featured

copyright the Chronicle April 27, 2016

by Joseph Gresser

NEWPORT – State forensic experts will have to rewrite their manuals if the Vermont Supreme Court upholds a decision issued by Judge Howard VanBenthuysen Monday.

The judge, sitting in the Criminal Division of Orleans County Superior Court, said in a written opinion that state experts do not take enough individual factors into consideration when calculating what a person’s blood alcohol level was more than two hours earlier.

The decision concerns what the judge calls “relation-back testimony,” meaning calculations intended to show how quickly a person’s system rids itself of alcohol, and hence what that person’s blood alcohol level was at some time before…To read the rest of this article, and all the Chronicle‘s stories, subscribe:

Print subscription

Annual online subscription

Short-term online subscription

(To find a particular article, search for the corresponding edition of the newspaper)

Share

In Newport: Guns, drugs stolen from police evidence room

Featured

Mikeal Rivers.  Photo courtesy of the Vermont State Police

Mikeal Rivers. Photo courtesy of the Vermont State Police

copyright the Chronicle February 11, 2015 

by Joseph Gresser

NEWPORT — Police say they arrested a man Sunday night whose pockets bulged with drugs and guns stolen from the Newport Police Department’s evidence room. The thefts could place some prosecutions in jeopardy, according to the affidavit filed in the case by State Police Sergeant Matthew Amadon.

Orleans County State’s Attorney Jennifer Barrett declined to comment on what effect the theft might have on her office’s work. She said it will take several days to review cases connected to the stolen evidence.

Continue reading

Share

Dions plead innocent to deer poaching charges

Featured

Wayne and Jennie Dion of Irasburg pose with the two bucks they shot on opening weekend of rifle season in 2008.  Mr. Dion’s deer was an eight-pointer and weighed 190 pounds.  Ms. Dion’s deer was a six-pointer and weighed 160 pounds.  Photos courtesy of the Dions

Wayne and Jennie Dion of Irasburg pose with the two bucks they shot on opening weekend of rifle season in 2008. Mr. Dion’s deer was an eight-pointer and weighed 190 pounds. Ms. Dion’s deer was a six-pointer and weighed 160 pounds. Photos courtesy of the Dions

copyright the Chronicle January 14, 2015

by Joseph Gresser

NEWPORT — State game wardens staking out the Irasburg home of Wayne R. Dion, 66, and Jennie A. Dion, 61, say they heard a gunshot during the night before hunting season opened. They say their investigation turned up evidence of several violations of hunting laws.

Mr. Dion appeared in the Criminal Division of Orleans County Superior Court Tuesday where he pled innocent to failure to tag big game, baiting deer, feeding deer, taking game by illegal method-using a light, taking deer out of season, taking a big game animal by illegal means, taking a bird in closed season, possessing a big game animal taken by illegal means or in closed season, and transporting big game taken by illegal means or in closed season.

Ms. Dion pled innocent to possessing a big game animal taken by illegal means or in closed season.

Both were released on conditions by Judge Timothy Tomasi.

Continue reading

Share