NEWPORT CITY – The six Lowell mountain wind development protesters, whose August 2012 convictions for trespassing on land leased by Green Mountain Power were affirmed by the Vermont Supreme Court in November, saw their sentences imposed.
In a court order issued Jan. 30, Judge Howard VanBenthuysen wrote that the protesters must either pay a $250 fine or notify the court of their intent to complete 25 hours of community service within 21 days lest they face contempt of court.
Judge Martin Maley, who presided over the jury trial, had stayed the sentences for David Rodgers of Craftsbury, Ryan Gillard of Plainfield, Suzanna Jones of East Hardwick, Anne Morse of Craftsbury Common, Dr. Robert Holland of Irasburg, and Eric Wallace-Senft of Woodbury pending the outcome of their appeal.
That appeal took more than a year after their convictions before coming back to district court for imposition of sentence.
VanBenthuysen’s order spells out what the court intends community service to entail, including good works or services for recognized nonprofits like clinics, rescue organizations, health care entities, churches, parks, schools, food shelves or similar organizations.
Each defendant opting for community service must send a letter to the court indicating the name and location of the organization chosen. At the completion of the 25 hours, each defendant must provide proof of the work done in writing along with a requested letter from the organization certifying as much.
The protesters will have 60 days to complete the 25 hours.
At the sentencing hearing in December 2012, the protesters’ attorney Kristina Michelsen said that rather than spending time on a work crew, which would place “non-criminals” unnecessarily in the custody of the Department of Corrections, she’d like for her clients to be able to work off their fines doing community service – outside the purview of the Department of Corrections.
Maley said the court was persuaded that due to the lack of criminal records and nature of the crimes – acts of civil disobedience – that Michelsen’s approach was appropriate.
The protesters were arrested Dec. 5, 2011, while blocking a crane path at the wind project site. Also arrested that day was Chronicle publisher Chris Braithwaite, 69, of West Glover, whose trespass charge was eventually dismissed with prejudice by VanBenthuysen.
The protesters’ Supreme Court appeal was based on the premise that ownership of the property was in dispute in civil court – where the matter remains – which creates reasonable doubt as to whether they were allowed to be where they were Dec. 5, 2011.
Don and Shirley Nelson, who’ve continually shown their support to protesters, have sued abutting landowner Trip Wileman and Green Mountain Power, saying they own the strip of land where protesters were that day.
Six additional protesters, arrested at the site Aug. 6, 2012, are still facing trespassing charges for blocking a private road and preventing Green Mountain Power vehicles from getting to the construction site.
Currently, defendants William Roddy of Irasburg, Dennis Liddy of Westfield, Meredith Pearce Jones of Irasburg, Carol Irons of Albany, Keith Ballek of Sheffield, and Raymond Micklon of Craftsbury Common are not scheduled for pretrial conferences or jury selection. They are also represented by Michelsen.
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