Case dropped against Yankee activists

Case dropped against Yankee activists

December 20, 2005

By DANIEL BARLOW Southern Vermont Bureau

BRATTLEBORO — Trespassing charges against seven women arrested last month during a protest outside of Vermont Yankee’s corporate offices have been dropped by Windham County State’s Attorney Dan Davis.

The women had pleaded innocent to the charges in Brattleboro District Court last week and were expecting to go to trial in March 2006. Davis, the prosecutor in the case, said the burden on the court system to try the women outweighed the alleged crimes.

“Based on my review of the actions of the protesters, I deemed that it would be unwise to use the resources of my office and the court to prosecute,” Davis said Monday.

The women — many of whom are in their 50s and live in northern Massachusetts just outside of the 10-mile emergency zone around the nuclear power plant — were arrested Nov. 7 after allegedly trespassing on the front lawn of Entergy Nuclear in Brattleboro, the parent company of Vermont Yankee.

On Friday, Davis issued the order dropping the charges against Maureen Briggs-Carrington, 54, of 57 Market St. in Northampton, Mass.; Terry Carter, 55, of 36 Chapin St. in Brattleboro; Elizabeth Wood, 27, of 111 Dutton Farm Road in Dummerston; Sally Shaw, 49, of 100 River Road in Gill, Mass.; Nina Keller, 59, of 28 Cold Brook Road in Wendell, Mass.; Sunny Miller, 56, of 103 Keets Road in Deerfield, Mass.; and Lynn Crough, 44, of 29 Beach St. in Greenfield, Mass.

“I applaud what he has done,” said Bennington attorney Stephen Saltonstall, who was representing the protesters and planned to ask that the charges be dropped on First Amendment grounds. “I want to personally thank him for this.”

Saltonstall said Davis invoked Vermont Rules of Criminal Procedure 48(a), which allows a prosecutor to dismiss charges “in the interest of justice.”

Davis used the same rule when he dropped charges against more than 20 people accused of blocking the main gate at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon in the late 1990s, said Saltonstall, who was representing the protesters in that case also.

The State’s Attorney’s Office has prosecuted several protestors charged with crimes during his tenure, Davis said, but it is not uncommon to dismiss charges in certain cases. Davis said the protestors in this instance were using the media and the court system to get their anti-nuclear message out to the public.

Wood, one of the women arrested last month, said she was pleased the charges were dropped and didn’t believe it would affect the plan to stage at least one protest outside the corporate offices every month.

She added that it was the goal of the protesters to “bring visibility” of nuclear issues to the public, not to get arrested.

“I hope this encourages more people to come out and have their voices heard,” Wood said.

Five more women were arrested in a similar act of disobedience on Dec. 5, although it was not clear Monday if those charges will be dropped as well. Davis said he has not seen the court paperwork for those cases yet.

A protest outside the offices on Saturday was peaceful and resulted in no arrests, according to several people who attended.

Contact Daniel Barlow at daniel.barlow@rutlandherald.com.