Author Archives: Patty Minichiello

Judge says jury can come from Vermont

The Associated Press

BURLINGTON — The federal judge presiding over the case of a Vermont man charged in the sexual assault and killing of his 12-year-old niece in 2008 has changed his mind about combing the entire state for prospective jurors in the man’s trial. 

Judge William Sessions III told lawyers during a pre-trial hearing Tuesday in Burlington he now believes an impartial jury for the trial of Michael Jacques can be picked from a pool of up to 5,000 people in northern Vermont.

“The logistics would be extremely difficult for jurors coming up from Brattleboro. I’m convinced we can summon a jury from 5,000 in the northern part of the state,” Sessions said.

Jacques of Randolph potentially faces the death penalty. He has pleaded not guilty to charges that he abducted, sexually assaulted and killed Brooke Bennett.

Jury selection is scheduled to start Sept. 3.

Sessions expressed concern that news coverage of the high-profile case will make picking an unbiased jury difficult, forcing the trial to moved.

“I thought a jury could be selected in Vermont when I denied the change of venue motion, but I wasn’t sure,” he said.

Horse barn destroyed in early-morning fire

By Brent Curtis
Staff Writer

FLORENCE – A horse barn on West Creek Road was destroyed in an early morning fire Wednesday.

Firefighters from three towns converged on 3792 West Creek Road where a small barn was reported engulfed in flames at 3:10 a.m. Wednesday, according to Pittsford Fire Chief Tom Hooker.

No one was injured in the blaze and the horses that called the small structure home were out to pasture at the time.

But the roughly $35,000 building was completely destroyed and some chickens housed in the barn were killed, the chief said.

Firefighters from Chittenden and Proctor assisted Pittsford crews at the scene.

Vt. rule allows electronics in fed court

The Associated Press

BURLINGTON — Journalists can now bring cellphones and computers into federal buildings in Vermont.

The new rule allows them to carry the devices past security checkpoints but still bans them from being used in court during hearings and trials.

Video and still cameras are still prohibited.

The Burlington Free Press had asked the federal courts in Vermont to allow the use of the newsgathering devices in court for breaking news reports. Smartphones, recorders, and notebook and tablet computers are allowed in state courtrooms in Vermont.

The chief court clerk and federal judges in Vermont did a two-month study and then issued a proposed rule in February.

The revised rule, which started this week, covers U.S. District Court in Burlington, Rutland and Brattleboro.

Secret Service: Suspicious letter mailed to Obama

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Secret Service says it has intercepted a letter addressed to President Barack Obama that contained a “suspicious substance.”

Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan says the letter was intercepted at a facility away from the White House. He says the letter was received Tuesday.

The letter comes a day after lawmakers said a letter was mailed to Sen. Roger Wicker that tested positive for poisonous ricin. Another senator said police have a suspect in mind.

Tensions have been high in Washington and across the country since the deadly bombings on Monday at the Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured more than 170.

Woman charged with growing, processing pot plants

Staff Report

A Mount Holly woman was arrested and charged Tuesday with  felony possession and cultivation of marijuana.

Vermont State Police were called to a home in Mount Holly on a report of marijuana cultivation on April 13.

Police arrived at 2998 Shunpike Roadat about 7:42 p.m. and executed a search warrant on the residence. The search warrant resulted in the seizure of more than 100 marijuana plants and 76 grams of processed marijuana.

The plants seized ranged from seedlings to full grown, which indicated a multi-stage indoor grow process.

The resident, Barbara A. Hyjek, 43, was subsequently arrested and processed at the State Police barracks in Rutland on Tuesday.

Lyndon College installing president this week

The Associated Press

ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. — Lyndon State College is officially installing its new president this week.

Joe Bertolino is the 15th president of the college. But you can just call him “Joe” — he tells Vermont Public Radio. He wants the campus community to know his name, just as he wants to know the students’ names.

Bertolino comes to LSC after eight years at Queens College in New York, where he was vice president for enrollment management and student affairs and was primarily responsible for supervising 22 departments.

Bertolino, who has a doctorate from Columbia University, formally accepted the appointment at Lyndon State College in February 2012.

He succeeded Steve Gold who served as Lyndon’s interim president since Dr. Carol A. Moore’s retirement in June 2011.

Shumlin aide suggests give and take on spending

Vermont Press Bureau

MONTPELIER — Top aides to Gov. Peter Shumlin told lawmakers Monday that they’re willing to scale back on some of the administration’s more controversial initiatives, including proposed cuts to programs that benefit low-income Vermonters.

But Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding said the Democratic governor will not abide the $70 million increase in taxes on sales, meals and income that House lawmakers would use over the next two years to fund the $5.2 billion budget they passed last month. And he introduced at least one new funding stream he said could be used to mitigate the need for increases in “broad-based” taxes.

In the first visible sign of compromise since Shumlin delivered his budget address in January, Spaulding unveiled a memorandum detailing a revised proposal that he says reflects the concerns of lawmakers vetting the governor’s plan. Spaulding said Shumlin is willing to dial back a proposed reduction in the earned-income tax credit — from $17 million to $12 million. The governor’s revised budget also concedes that the state won’t reap any savings next year from a plan to impose a five-year lifetime cap on welfare benefits. Continue reading

Vt. co-ops push for GMO labeling

The Associated Press

MONTPELIER  — One of the most common questions these days among customers at Vermont’s food cooperatives is whether the food they’re buying contains genetically modified ingredients — but the member-owned cooperatives say they can’t tell their customers for sure.

The state’s 17 co-ops announced their support Tuesday for a bill that would require the labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms, as more customers seek GMO-free food.

“They want education and they want to know what has GMOs and what doesn’t,” Krissy Ruddy, community relations manager for the Hunger Mountain Coop. “Honestly we don’t have that information readily available to give to the people who need it.” Continue reading

Local man denies domestic assault

By Brent Curtis
Staff Writer

A Mendon man charged with beating and choking a woman last week was jailed on $10,000 bail Monday after denying felony domestic assault.

Tristan L. Taylor, 29, pleaded innocent in Rutland criminal court to a charge of aggravated domestic assault in the second degree. He remained behind bars Tuesday in the Rutland jail.

Rutland City Police arrested him Friday night after they were called to an apartment on Grant Street by a woman who said Taylor assaulted her during an argument. The woman told police Taylor kicked her, grabbed her by the hair and threw her onto a bed where he allegedly choked her. Continue reading

‘Judgment call’ may help Berlin municipal water plan

By David Delcore
Staff Writer

BERLIN — Just when it looked like Berlin’s ability to leverage favorable financing for a $5.5 million municipal water system had all but evaporated, the town was the beneficiary of a “judgment call” made by a federal employee who essentially concluded that no information was good information.

Rhonda Shippee, community programs director for USDA Rural Development in Vermont and New Hampshire, may have kept the town’s hopes of constructing a water system afloat based on what she conceded Monday was an “unusual” decision involving a newly completed income survey.

The results of that survey were relayed to USDA Rural Development last week by a consultant who spent nearly two months attempting to collect necessary data from the 59 households that could potentially be served by the proposed water system. Continue reading