Category Archives: Legal

Man pleads guilty in film fraud case

RUTLAND — A man has pleaded guilty in Vermont federal court to charges connected to a scheme to defraud hundreds of investors in a movie.
Louis Soteriou of Middlebury, Conn., pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal in Rutland on Thursday to charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
The Burlington Free Press reports ( prosecutors agreed to drop 16 other counts against him.
Prosecutors said people invested $28 million in the film, called “Birth of Innocence.” They said Soteriou had partnered with Vermont filmmaker Malcolm “Mac” Parker on the deal.
Parker, of Addison, was in court Thursday. Last year, he pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to commit wire fraud and filing a false tax document. He awaits sentencing.

Wind project gets bat death permit

SHEFFIELD — The owner of a commercial wind project in Vermont has been issued a special permit allowing for possible fatalities of bats, some of which are endangered species in the state.
The permit was sought by First Wind, which has a 16-turbine wind development project in Sheffield.
The Caledonian-Record reports ( the permit issued by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources allows for fatalities for a maximum of four little brown bats, one Northern Long-Eared Bat, one Tri-Colored Bat and on Eastern Small-Footed Bat.
The permit issued requires the company to limit the operation of its turbines during the times of year when bats are most likely to be injured.
The company had been issued another permit earlier this year to monitor migratory bird mortality.

Vermont Yankee nuke plant sues over new state tax

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant has filed a lawsuit against the state over taxes on the plant the Legislature passed this year.
Vermont Yankee already won a round in federal court over the state’s efforts to close it. That case is on appeal.
Now New Orleans-based plant owner Entergy Corp. is suing over a law increasing the plant’s annual tax bill from about $5 million to about $12.8 million. Backers of the increase say it was designed to make up for revenues lost to the state under agreements that ended on the plant’s originally scheduled shutdown date in March.
Gov. Peter Shumlin calls Entergy’s decision to challenge the tax “disappointing.” Entergy says the tax is unconstitutional.
The plant is in Vernon, in the southeast corner of the state. It’s near Massachusetts and New Hampshire, which receive power from it.

Report: Vt. school district violated civil rights

SPRINGFIELD — Federal investigators say a Vermont school district violated civil rights laws while responding to an incident in which a teacher’s aide threatened an African-American sixth-grader and then used a racial epithet.
After a two-year-investigation, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has reached a settlement with the Springfield School District. The Valley News reports the district is required to pay nearly $3,000 in counseling services for the student and increase regulations in training for employees.
The agency says in 2010, an aide at Riverside Middle School told the student if he didn’t stop using a yardstick to sword-fight with another student, the aide would “shove it” into him “and then used the epithet. The aide resigned. The child now attends school elsewhere.

Vt’ers eye share of $69 million antitrust settlement over e-books

MONTPELIER - Vermonters will receive as much as $178,000 as part of a $69 million antitrust settlement Vermont and other states reached with three of the country’s largest book publishers.

Hachette Book Group Inc., HarperCollins Publishers and Simon & Schuster agreed to resolve antitrust claims that the companies conspired to fix the price of electronic books, according to the Vermont Attorney General’s Office.

Vermont and the other states allege that the three publishers, together with others, unlawfully agreed to raise retail prices and eliminate retail price competition so that all e-book prices would be the same.

As a result, consumers paid millions of dollars more for e-books than they should have.

The publishers agreed to pay $69 million to consumers across the country. The states will continue to pursue Apple and the two nonsettling publishers, Penguin Group Inc. and Macmillan.

“This case sends a strong message that price-fixing will not be tolerated,” Vermont Attorney General Sorrell said.

Under the proposed settlement, which requires court approval, the three publishers will compensate consumers who purchased e-books from any of the five publishers from April 1, 2010 through May 21, 2012.

The publishers also agreed to terminate agreements that prevented certain retailers, such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, from reducing e-book prices.



Wind developer drops restraining order

GEORGIA — A wind power developer in Georgia has dropped a court order against property owners who moved within a safety zone as construction work was scheduled on a project.
Georgia Mountain Community Wind recently got the order blocking the landowners from accessing their own land that lies with the blasting zone for the project. The landowners oppose the project.
WCAX-TV reports extra crews have been brought in to expedite the blasting process and they are able to work on the project without requiring the restraining order.
The company originally said the order was needed for safety purposes for make sure people stay outside the blasting safety zone for the four-turbine project.

Investors seek assets from Mac Parker

RUTLAND — Three investors who say Vermont storyteller Malcolm “Mac” Parker fraudulently persuaded them to lend him money for a $28 million movie project have filed court papers aimed at recouping what they’ve lost.
Parker has pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges of conspiring to commit wire fraud and filing a false tax document. He’s awaiting sentencing. A partner, Louis Soterio faces fraud and money laundering charges.
The Burlington Free Press reports the investors are pursuing a seldom-used involuntary bankruptcy process against Parker that could allow them seize his assets, including the still-unfinished film, “Birth of Innocence.”
Investor Robert Melik Finkle of Rochester said the three are acting as trustees for all of the investors. Finkle says he’s owed nearly $800,000.

Lien filed against former trooper’s home

COLCHESTER — Vermont authorities say they would try to collect any over-payments that may have been made to a former state trooper charged with falsifying his time sheets.
County Attorney T.J. Donovan has filed a lien on former St. Jim Deeghan’s home, which was put up for sale.
The Burlington Free Press reports Donovan wrote to Colchester Town Clerk Karen Richard that the state is trying to protect its interests by filing the lien. He wrote if convicted, Deeghan could face a possible restitution order.
Deeghan declined to comment Tuesday. The lien puts the state in line to collect money if the house is sold.
Deeghan resigned July 10. He has pleaded not guilty to allegations that he falsified time reports for two pay periods in June

Court restores defamation suit against hospital

BRATTLEBORO — The Vermont Supreme Court has ordered a judge to take another a look at a defamation lawsuit filed by a former Brattleboro Retreat employee against the psychiatric hospital.
The lawsuit filed by David Shaddy followed the Retreat’s allegation that he unlawfully diverted regulated drugs from the medication room.
A judge dismissed the complaint on the grounds that it had been resolved before the Vermont Department of Labor and in a criminal case; he pleaded no contest to possession of a stimulant.
The Brattleboro Reformer reports the court ruled Friday that while the judge was correct to dismiss other parts of the suit, the defamation claim should be reconsidered.
Shaddy, who worked at the Retreat as a nurse, filed his suit in January 2011.

Lisa Miller’s father testifies in

BURLINGTON — Federal prosecutors are outlining the process a woman used as she prepared to flee the United States with her daughter to avoid sharing custody of the child to her former lesbian partner in Vermont.
The case continued Thursday in the trial of a Virginia pastor who’s charged with helping Lisa Miller and her 7-year-old daughter flee.
Lisa Miller’s father, Terry Miller, testified he made a series of phone calls to her in the days before she left and to telephones registered to a Virginia company called Response Unlimited.
Terry Miller said he was trying to let someone at one of the Response Unlimited phones know where she was waiting at a Wal-Mart in the Lynchburg, Va., area.
The trial of Kenneth Miller of Stuarts Draft, Va., entered its third day.