Crime

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Story +Video: Rules Committee advances resolution to suspend McAllister

https://youtu.be/p-nMag-n0K0

MONTPELIER — The Senate Rules Committee voted Wednesday in favor of sending a resolution seeking the suspension of Franklin County Sen. Norm McAllister, who is charged with several sex crimes, to the full Senate next month. The 3 to 2 vote on the suspension resolution offered by Sen. Philip Baruth, D-Chittenden, came after the panel rejected another resolution from Sen. Peg Flory, R-Rutland, on a 4 to 1 vote, that would have amended the Senate’s rules to prevent it from acting in any manner until any pending felony charges are settled in court. McAllister, if suspended under the resolution, would continue to receive his pay because it is constitutionally protected unless he is expelled, Baruth said. Sens. Baruth, Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, and John Campbell, D-Windsor, voted in favor of the suspension resolution. Continue Reading →

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Senate Dems leaning toward suspending McAllister

HARTLAND — Senate Democrats are moving toward seeking the suspension of a Republican member of the body accused of sexual crimes to avoid interfering with his criminal case. Fifteen members of the Democratic caucus met Saturday at the timber frame home of Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell, and one on the phone, to discuss how the body should proceed regarding Franklin County Sen. Norm McAllister. The 64-year-old McAllister was arrested at the State House in May and stands accused of sexually assaulting three women, including a legislative intern who allegedly lived with him in Montpelier at times. He has pleaded not guilty to three felony and three misdemeanor charges, and his criminal case is pending. McAllister has refused to resign, despite immense pressure from both Republicans and Democrats. Continue Reading →

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Gubernatorial candidates divided on expanding background checks for gun sales

ubernatorial candidates are divided over the need to strengthen the state’s gun control laws. Sue Minter, one of two Democratic candidates for governor, has come out strongly in favor of requiring universal background checks for all firearm sales in Vermont, regardless of the nature of the transaction. “I am committed to requiring universal background checks for gun sales – including those that occur at gun shows, flea markets, and private sales,” Minter wrote in a statement to her supporters one day after a mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., claimed the lives of 14 people. “Background checks are currently required for all gun sales at Vermont’s federally registered firearms dealers,” Minter’s statement continued. “The same standard should apply to all gun sales.”

In a subsequent interview, Minter rejected the argument that the state’s gun laws do not need to be changed because Vermont is already among the safest places to live in the United States. Continue Reading →

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Embezzlement threatens Hunger Free Vermont

MONTPELIER — Hunger Free Vermont is in dire need of donations as federal authorities investigate a long-term embezzlement that sapped its cash reserves, according to Executive Director Marissa Parisi. The theft was discovered about a month ago by the group’s local bank branch after irregularities in a checking account were spotted, according to Parisi. The extent of the theft is still being determined, she said. “We’re still going through everything with a fine-toothed comb and we’re working with federal authorities,” Parisi said. “It’s likely in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Continue Reading →

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State to try new drug to fight opiate addiction

MONTPELIER — The state will begin offering a drug to inmates leaving prison that blocks the brain’s pleasure center, with the goal of reducing relapses into opiate addiction. Beginning in January, inmates leaving Marble Valley Correctional Facility will have access to naltrexone, a drug that prevents a user from feeling high when ingesting an opiate such as heroin or oxycodone. So far, the state has trained 50 health care providers to prescribe naltrexone, a drug that is administered once a month by injection; however, no special training needed and the drug can be administered by any prescriber. Currently, the drug is approved for use in treating alcoholism and opiate addiction. While the drug itself is not new — some doctors have been prescribing the drug all along — the state is looking to expand its use in the hope of curbing the state’s opiate epidemic. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Lara’s Legacy

lancing through my morning paper the other day, an entry in the “police log” caught my eye, and not in a good way. It read “A woman threatened to ‘go all Jody Herring’ on a Department for Children and Families caseworker.” It was a harsh reminder of how important VSEA’s current campaign to enhance on-the-job safety for DCF workers is. But this group of workers is not alone. VSEA members working in the Employment Services Division, Office of Child Support, Probation and Parole, Corrections and other agencies and departments throughout state government have also told their union that they would like improved on-the-job safety. VSEA members recognize that our request for increased worker safety protections will cost money, but another Lara Sobel tragedy is something no one wants, and, judging by the newspaper entry I told you about (and other scary incidents workers have been told me about), time is particularly of the essence here. Continue Reading →

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State’s inmate population declines to lowest level in over a decade

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The number of inmates in Vermont prisons is at its lowest level since the early 2000s, Gov. Peter Shumlin said Monday. On Monday there were 1,734 inmates in Vermont prisons, a decline of 17.5 percent since Shumlin took office in early 2011 when there were 2,103 inmates in custody. Also, the number of inmates being held in out-of-state prisons has fallen 52 percent since Shumlin took office from 562 to 271 today. Shumlin cited a series of policy changes and new laws for the drop, including alternatives to incarceration for first offenders, the elimination of criminal penalties for small amounts of marijuana and making it easier for people convicted of some crimes to get jobs with the state. Continue Reading →

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Court ruling will expand access to public records

MONTPELIER — The recent settlement of a long-running court case means the documents produced by a private company that does business with Vermont is subject to the state’s public records law. After a three-year legal battle, the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont has reached a financial settlement with a private prison provider in a court case that concludes the records produced by the provider during its services for the state are subject to Vermont’s Public Records Act. “Vermont is essentially contracting out more and more government service work, and the question of access to records these contractors hold for the work they are doing for the government, the question will become more germane as people hold the government accountable,” said Allen Gilbert, executive director of ACLU-VT. The private company referred to in the court case is Corrections Corporation of America — or CCA — that court documents refer to as a “for profit, publicly traded Maryland corporation headquartered in Tennessee in the business of operating prisons.”

From 2007 until early 2015, Vermont contracted with CCA to house some of the state’s prison population, with several hundred prisoners held at a private facility in Kentucky. In 2012, Prison Legal News, monthly publication dealing with prisoner rights published by the Human Rights Defense Center in West Brattleboro, filed a public record request with CCA, looking for records of any money spent related to settlements or judgments against Vermont in relation to the services provided by CCA. Continue Reading →

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Barre DCF workers will move to nearby courthouse after shooting

MONTPELIER — The Shumlin administration is planning to move Department for Children and Families workers from their location at Barre City Place to a nearby courthouse, a direct response to the August shooting death of a DCF worker. Administration Secretary Justin Johnson told reporters Friday that about 30 employees in DCF’s Economic Services Division will make the one-block move by the end of year. The employees will take over the fourth floor of the state-owned courthouse, he said. To accommodate them, the Washington County State’s Attorney’s office will move down to the courthouse’s second floor, he said. “That group of people have been fairly traumatized,” he said. Continue Reading →

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Senate crafts plan to oust McAllister

MONTPELIER — State Senate officials are developing a process to oust embattled Franklin County Republican Sen. Norm McAllister in case he does not resign before the legislative session starts in January. McAllister, 64, was arrested at the State House in May and stands accused of sexually assaulting three women, including a legislative intern who was allegedly as young as 16 at the time. He has pleaded not guilty to three felony and three misdemeanor charges, and his criminal case is pending. In an interview published last week in Seven Days, McAllister adamantly denied the charges and indicated he will not resign. That entrenched position is not sitting well with Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning. Continue Reading →

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