NEWPORT – A hearing on the case of the two Sterling College students arrested on Lowell Mountain was heard Thursday in Orleans Superior Court Criminal Division.
The students’ attorney, Kristina Michelson, filed motions for the case to be dismissed.
David Martorana and Trevor Ring were arrested on Lowell Mountain on Nov. 16. The two were among several people occupying the mountain and opposed to the construction of the wind project currently underway, but both students said they did not want to get arrested.
Some protesters had actively interfered with the project and caused delays, prompting Green Mountain Power (GMP), the company building the project, to go to court. Judge Martin Maley issued a Preliminary Injunction on Nov 1 to keep people off a 1,000-foot radius of the blast sites two hours before scheduled blasting. The 1,000-foot radius includes land on adjacent property owned by Don and Shirley Nelson.
On Nov. 9, Lamoille County Sheriff’s Deputy Claude Marcoux read the court order to those within the blast zone, including the defendants, Martorana and Ring.
On Nov. 16, the students said they heard and felt a blast in the morning and were beyond the 1,000-foot warning sign. After the blast, they headed back to the campsite set up on the Nelson property on the ridgeline next to the construction area. But that day blasting was scheduled nearly every hour. Within minutes of a subsequent blast, police found Martorana and Ring near the ridgeline, Marcoux testified while on the stand in Orleans County Criminal Court as a witness for the state.
The question of how the students were to know that another blast was to occur went unanswered. Judge Robert Gerety Jr. wanted to know if any of the signs listed blasting times, but neither the state nor Marcoux could answer the question.
Neighbors of the project were notified by phone in the morning during the days of blasts. Shirley and Don Nelson are among those neighbors. They received the call that morning but were unable to notify any of the protesters, Shirley Nelson said following the hearing Thursday. She said they were threatened with a $5,000 fine if they set foot on their upper mountain property during blasting times.
Whether or not the “all clear” whistle had sounded after the first blast also went unanswered in court. Marcoux could not recall if he heard the whistle or not.
Marcoux also testified that it would be very difficult to search the 1,000-foot area radius before every scheduled blast.
Marcoux said he knew of the blasting schedule from speaking with Dave Coriell with Green Mountain Power, but he had not notified Martorana or Ring that day.
“How would the defendants know when the blasting was to occur?” Gerety asked Marcoux.
“I can’t answer that,” he replied.
Michelson also took issue with the students being arrested in the first place because the Preliminary Injunction is directed at the Nelsons, who are named the defendants “and any other persons acting in concert and participation with the defendants. Michelson said they were not participating or working in concert with the Nelsons.
The issue of who was included in the Preliminary Injunction was not discussed further in court. The judge seemed more interested in notification of the blasting schedule.
Gerety said he would have a decision on the matter soon.
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