Category Archives: Legal

Vt. jury due for Va. man in same-sex custody case

BURLINGTON — Jury selection is set to begin in a Vermont federal court for a Virginia man charged with helping a woman flee the United States with her daughter rather than share custody of the girl with her former lesbian partner.
Forty-six-year-old Kenneth Miller, of Stuarts Draft, Va., is facing a charge of helping Lisa Miller flee the United States to avoid having to turn over custody of her now-10-year-old daughter to Janet Jenkins of Fair Haven. The two Millers are not related.
Prosecutors say in September 2009 Miller drove Lisa Miller and her daughter Isabella from Virginia to Buffalo, N.Y. where the mother and daughter then flew to Central America.
Jury selection is set for Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Burlington.
Opening statements are expected Wednesday.

Insurance company pays $600,000 in settlement

MONTPELIER – Bankers Life and Casualty Company paid the state a $600,000 fine as part of a agreement to settle charges the company sold unsuitable insurance products to older Vermonters, the Department of Financial Regulation announced Tuesday.

Bankers Life also returned $77,000 in restitution to Vermont customers.

“This settlement represents significant work by the Department’s Insurance Division to stop companies from selling unsuitable insurance products, especially annuities, to Vermonters – particularly to older Vermonters,” said Commissioner Stephen Kimbell. Continue reading

Plea deal reached in sex assault

BARRE — A Barre man charged with repeatedly sexually assaulting a female family member has reached a plea agreement.
In paperwork filed in Barre criminal court Tuesday, an order for pre-plea investigation has been given for Reco Jones, 52.
According to court records, Jones is accused of assaulting a family member over several years. He faces 25 years to life in prison and up to a $50,000 fine.
Jones had initially been denied a public defender because he was not considered financially needy, with an annual income listed at $112,000 and $9,700 in assets. He has since been granted a public defender with his latest application citing no income or assets.

Change of plea set for man in death of wife

ST. JOHNSBURY — A change of plea hearing is scheduled for a Vermont man charged with stabbing his wife to death in the parking lot of a St. Johnsbury mall.
Benjamin Berwick had been scheduled to go on trial July 9.
The 51-year-old Berwick, of Lyndon has been charged with second-degree murder in the stabbing death of his 45-year-old estranged wife Anna Berwick in the parking lot of the Green Mountain Mall on Dec. 28, 2009.
Deputy State’s Attorney Kirk Williams tells the Caledonian Record the details of the agreement “have not been reduced to writing.”
After his estranged wife was killed, Benjamin Berwick was found nearby suffering from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.
He’s being held at the Newport prison.

Vt. congressional delegation comments on health care decision

Vermont’s congressional delegation has each issued statements related to the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act.

In individual statements, Sen. Patrick Leahy, Sen. Bernard Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch commented on the decision:

Continue reading

Man gets year for gun death

BENNINGTON — A 25-year-old Vermont man is going to jail for a year after pleading no contest to charges he shot his best friend to death with what he had thought was an air gun.
Nicholas Bell of Manchester entered his no contest pleas in May to charges of manslaughter, simple assault with a weapon and reckless endangerment for the death of 24-year-old Jeffrey Charbonneau on Nov. 25, 2010. He was sentenced Tuesday.
Police say Bell and Charbonneau were staying at the home of a mutual friend when Bell shot Charbonneau in the chest as he slept with what he mistakenly thought was an air gun. The weapon turned out to be a loaded .22-caliber rifle.
Bell apologized to Charbonneau’s family in court Tuesday.

Assistant AG weighs case

WEST RUTLAND – An assistant Vermont attorney general will consider a recent civil court ruling in a West Rutland School principal case as part of her investigation of a possible Open Meeting Law violation.
Susanne Young said Tuesday she would review a decision made by Judge Mary Miles Teachout last Thursday that denied West Rutland parents a preliminary injunction on the School Board, in a suit filed by 28 parents. Continue reading

Skier takes resort to court

KILLINGTON — A skier says a Vermont ski resort is at fault for his injuries.
Alfred Rocks of Egg Harbor, N.J., sued Killington Ski Area, saying it failed to maintain a trail in a “reasonably safe condition” when Rocks suffered leg fractures during a fall in 2009. The 53-year-old Rocks said he suffered additional injuries when a ski patrol toboggan he was strapped into flipped over.
A trial on Rocks’ lawsuit started Friday and is expected to continue through this week.
The Burlington Free Press reported that Killington doesn’t dispute the details of the toboggan accident. It says there’s no proof Rocks suffered an “independent injury” when the sled flipped over.
As for the trail injuries, Killington said Rocks understood the risks involved and was “solely responsible” for his injuries.

Feds open door to unlimited corporate spending in Vt. elections

Attorney General Bill Sorrell is applauding a federal court decision that he says upholds Vermont’s campaign finance laws. But the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions on Thursday effectively overturns the state’s $2,000 limit on political-action committees, opening the door to SuperPACs in Vermont.

“The State has not offered a persuasive basis on which to limit contributions to a political action committee that only makes independent expenditures,” Sessions said.

The case centers on the Vermont Right to Life Committee, which argued that Vermont’s $2,000 limit on contributions to political-action committees violated its rights to free speech.

Read the full story here.

Judge sides with Westside school board to uphold principal’s firing

West Rutland School Principal Juanita Burch-Clay was fired and parents lost their first attempt to show that the board didn’t follow the law when doing so.

Judge Mary Miles Teachout ruled that although the parents’ case had merit that would serve the public interest, the board did show its “intent to convene a regular meeting.”

Although the March 14 agenda was poorly written, the agenda did state the meeting would be called to order and the board would enter into an executive session for a personnel matter.

That alone follows the law, Teachout ruled.

“Putting executive session on top (of the agenda) is not a good practice, as we can see here today,” the judge said.

Four members of the school board voted unanimously Wednesday night to stick with a prior decision made March 14 to not renew the contract of Burch-Clay, according to Superintendent Debra Taylor.

Read the full story in tomorrow’s Rutland Herald.