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Publisher to assert first amendment defense

NEWPORT CITY – The newspaper publisher arrested at the Lowell Mountain wind project site with six protesters will continue asserting his first amendment rights in his defense.

Phil White, attorney for Chronicle publisher Chris Braithwaite, 68, of West Glover, who is charged with unlawful trespass, filed a notice of affirmative defense with Orleans Superior Court-Criminal Division March 9.

“As a member of the working press and the Fourth Estate, his conduct at the day, time and location charged was protected,” White wrote, citing Braithwaite’s rights under the first and fourteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution as well as chapter 1, articles 6 and 13 of the Vermont Constitution.

Braithwaite was arrested at the wind project site Dec. 5 while covering a protest in which people blocked the path of a crane for hours.

The six protesters accused of trespassing on land controlled by Green Mountain Power are set to pick juries June 21.

In response to White’s motion to dismiss, filed in December and based on the first amendment argument, Judge Robert Gerety Jr. wrote, “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.”

Despite that ruling, White said Wednesday, “We certainly intend to pursue that issue.”

White said he will depose Green Mountain Power employee David Coriell, who asked Orleans County Sheriff’s Department deputies to arrest the protesters, on the same day as his deposition in the cases of the other protesters, referred to Wednesday as “the Lowell Six” by White.

During a calendar call in March, Hardwick attorney Kristina Michelsen said, “It is our intention that these cases, represented by me, will be tried together.”

Michelsen will represent David Rodgers, 69, of Craftsbury, a mason and writer; Ryan Gillard, 23, of Plainfield, a mentor at EarthWalk Vermont; Suzanna Jones, 50, of East Hardwick, a farmer; Anne Morse, 48, of Craftsbury Common, a member of the Sterling College faculty; and Robert Holland, 67, of Irasburg, a doctor at North Country Hospital.

Defendant Eric Wallace-Senft, 46, of Woodbury, who is self-employed in maple sugaring and home maintenance, will represent himself at trial. His case will not be tried with the other defendants.

Braithwaite is scheduled for another calendar call June 13.