Green Mountain Power will reimburse Chronicle Publisher Chris Braithwaite for his legal expenses in defending himself against criminal trespass charges for the past year.
The civil lawsuit filed against the industrial wind developer and its agent David Coriell by the Chronicle and Braithwaite will be dismissed with prejudice, according to a press release issued Tuesday by Braithwaite.
“The payment of $22,500 fully covers my legal fees and is a fair resolution of this matter,” Braithwaite wrote.
Braithwaite was charged with unlawful trespass while covering a protest of the Lowell wind project in Dec. 2011. His case was dismissed after internal GMP e-mails, obtained by subpoena by defense attorney Phil White, revealed that GMP had given its consent to have reporters on site to cover protests.
After Judge Howard VanBenthuysen dismissed the criminal case with prejudice, Braithwaite and the Chronicle filed suit, alleging that Coriell’s action on a crane path on the mountain that day had caused Braithwaite to be falsely arrested, among other claims.
“Information provided to me by Green Mountain Power has led me to conclude that David Coriell was acting in good faith and may not have received the directive from GMP at the time of my arrest on Lowell Mountain on December 5, 2011,” Braithwaite wrote.
The suit alleged that Coriell caused Braithwaite’s arrest by telling Orleans County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Phil Brooks that there would be no exceptions to who was arrested.
The suit alleged that Coriell did so maliciously in retaliation for editorials Braithwaite published opposing the wind project.
GMP concealed the fact that it had directed Coriell to tell law enforcement that reporters covering protests and arrests were not to be arrested – information that would have cleared him of any legal wrong-doing, the suit alleged.
“GMP and/or Coriell intentionally, fraudulently, and maliciously unleashed the power of government against Braithwaite in retaliation for the exercise of his well the established First Amendment Rights and did so with the intent to impair the ongoing exercise thereof,” the complaint stated.
GMP and Coriell’s conduct also violated Braithwaite’s civil rights under Vermont law.
“These actions constituted malicious and unconstitutional retaliation for the exercise of Braithwaite’s right to publish his opinions regarding the commercial wind project in Lowell,” the complaint stated.
In documents filed leading up to the dismissal of the criminal allegation, Coriell wrote to colleagues that the directive not to arrest reporters didn’t get relayed to all officers involved that day.
“That said, I know the Sheriff had no intention of arresting Chris. Chris actually arrested himself by physically walking him back to the middle of the crane path,” Coriell wrote.
White deemed that response “disingenuous” at the time.
“In my capacity as a reporter, I worked with David over a three-month period while he was director of community outreach on Green Mountain Power’s project,” Braithwaite wrote in the press release.
“Our relations were professional and cordial, and I appreciated that he was doing a very difficult job under very stressful circumstances, as was I,” Braithwaite wrote.
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