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Vermont editor vows to fight wind trespass charge

NEWPORT, Vt.—The editor of a Vermont weekly newspaper is promising to fight the criminal trespass charge filed against him while he was covering a protest against a wind power project being built on Lowell Mountain.

Chris Braithwaite, the publisher of The Chronicle of Barton, said he would ask a jury to dismiss the charge against him that was filed while he was covering a December protest in which a number of anti-wind activists were charged with trespassing on land controlled by Green Mountain Power.

Braithwaite, 67, of Glover, had tried to argue that since he was a reporter covering a news event he should have been exempted from trespassing laws.

“Chris Braithwaite and The Chronicle intend to take this issue to trial and pursue this issue, if necessary, to the Vermont Supreme Court and to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Braithwaite’s attorney Philip White said in court documents.

But Judge Robert P. Gerety Jr., ruled that even through Braithwaite was working as a journalist, he did not have a legal right to go without permission onto private land to cover a news story.

“The court concludes that there is no legal authority for the proposition that the defendant, as a member of the press, enjoyed a privilege to trespass on private property under the circumstances presented in this case,” the judge said.

Braithwaite and six protesters were charged with trespassing after they blockaded construction vehicles on the crane path to the ridgeline where the wind project is being built.

Braithwaite and the protesters have all pleaded not guilty. They are promising to take their cases to trial.

The protesters object to Green Mountain Power’s project that is building a 21-turbine wind-power installation that will be capable of providing enough electricity for 24,000 homes.