NEWPORT CITY – As blades started turning on one of the wind turbines in Lowell this week, the Ira brothers – arrested for blocking a truck hauling wind tower parts to the Lowell wind project in July – resolved their cases in Orleans Superior Court-Criminal Division Tuesday.
In a courtroom filled with supporters, Ira Powsner, 26, and Jacob Powsner, 21, pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct by obstruction.
Both were offered a $300 fine as a sentence, but Ira Powsner instead opted to spend one to two days in jail. His brother chose the fine.
Ira Powsner is expected to report to the St. Johnsbury facility Sept. 28 at 6 p.m. and to be released sometime Sept. 29.
The state will not request restitution for Green Mountain Power, the company building the towers, in either case.
After Judge Howard VanBenthuysen read the charge, which states that the Powsner brothers created a public inconvenience or annoyance by blocking traffic on July 16, which is incidentally Ira Powsner’s birthday, Ira Powsner said, “With all due respect, I had no intent to irritate or inconvenience the public.”
The judge acknowledged that the day’s events were acts of civil disobedience.
Jacob Powsner’s plea was not taken on the record and instead was done by waiver at the court clerks’ office.
The Powsners were joined that day by between 100 and 150 fellow protesters who hoped to halt what they believe is the destruction of the Lowell Mountain range.
They were the only protesters arrested, and police used the men, who had been handcuffed and held in police vehicles, as bargaining chips to get the other protesters to leave the roadway and let the truck pass.
“Is this a fair way to resolve the case?” VanBenthuysen asked.
After a moment of hesitation and with a wide grin, Ira Powsner said it was.
In mid-August, six protesters arrested for blocking a crane path last Dec. were found guilty by a jury of unlawful trespass. Their attorney, Kristina Michelsen, who also represented the Powsner brothers, is asking Judge Martin Maley to overturn the verdict based in part on the fact that ownership of the land is in dispute in civil court.
Don and Shirley Nelson, who claim they own the land being leased to Green Mountain Power by Trip Wileman, were in court to support the Powsners Tuesday.
In affidavits filed with the court, Lamoille County deputy sheriffs Claude Marcoux and Leo Bachand wrote that the crowd began to form at the project site on Route 100 at about 8:30 a.m. and quickly swelled to at least 100 people.
The men were on a crowd control detail, after Lucy Leriche of Green Mountain Power forwarded an e-mail sent by the Mountain Occupiers to those against the project telling them that there would be civil disobedience opportunities, including an opportunity to be arrested, in mid-July at the site.
At 11 a.m., when the first truck hauling parts came into view, a large contingent of protesters flooded into the roadway, blocking both lanes of traffic on the busy trucking route, the deputies wrote.
Marcoux identified Ira Powsner as the leader of the group because he was the one holding a bull horn, leading chants and shouting instructions to other protesters.
When Marcoux told him to leave the roadway, Ira Powsner refused three times and was arrested and taken to a Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department vehicle.
Bachand wrote that he ushered a man waving the Vermont state flag out of the roadway when Jacob Powsner stepped in front of the huge tractor-trailer.
Bachand told Jacob Powsner he needed to move or he’d be arrested.
“He then advised I would have to arrest him,” Bachand wrote.
He too was handcuffed and led to a police cruiser to await processing on the charge.
Jacob Powsner has no apparent past criminal record, according to his court file. Ira Powsner was cited in Boston for disorderly conduct by painting graffiti or “tagging” but his file doesn’t indicate the disposition of the charge.
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