VY protesters dismissed from court
By BOB AUDETTE
BRATTLEBORO — Charges were dropped against the seven people who were arrested last month for protesting at Vermont Yankee’s corporate offices.
The state’s attorney on Monday dismissed charges of unlawful trespass against.
Terry Carter of Brattleboro, one of those arrested on Nov. 7, said she was happy the charges were dismissed, but a little disappointed that she wouldn’t get her day in court.
“A trial would have been a good way to draw attention to the issues,” said Carter. “But I’m happy I won’t have a criminal record.”
Windham County State’s Attorney Dan Davis said his office reviewed the case and decided it not in the best interest of the court, or his staff, to pursue the incident as a criminal prosecution.
Davis said extra judges will be coming into the county court system over the next few months to handle criminal cases. He said protesters often “do this type of thing to get media attention…just to make a political statement. Court is not the proper place to do that.”
Those seven charged after the protest had received an offer from the state’s attorney last week of a $250 fine and entrance into the diversion program. All refused.
“These people were trying to do the right thing and follow their conscience,” said Stephen Saltonstall, counsel for the protesters. “I don’t see any point in prosecuting these people. Mr. Davis did the right thing.”
Last year Davis’ office did pursue a criminal case against protesters who were charged with trespassing at a National Guard recruiting office that was located on Elliot Street on Brattleboro. Protesters entered the office on March 17, 2003, hung up anti-war signs and staged a non-violent, daylong protest. Six of the protesters went to trial and were convicted in October 2003.
“We’ve gone both ways in the past [with these kinds of cases],” Davis said. “It depends on the circumstances and it depends on the backlog of other cases in court. We have some very serious cases pending trial now.”
On Dec. 5, five women from Massachusetts were arrested while protesting at Vermont Yankee’s corporate office and cited with unlawful trespassing.
Davis said his office has not yet received any paperwork on that case and couldn’t say yet whether he will choose to dismiss those charges as well.
Sunny Miller, of the Traprock Peace Center in Deerfield, Mass., said she was excited that the charges had been dropped against her and the others on Monday. Miller said one of the reasons she has been protesting is that she would like to see radiation monitors installed in all schools and health-care facilities in a 50-mile radius around the plant.
“But we were turned away and arrested rather than being met for conversation on what we hoped would be common ground,” said Miller. Miller said, even though she was arrested during a demonstration, she doesn’t want to be considered a protester.
“We aren’t protesters,” said Miller. “It’s wrong to call us that. That’s not who we are. We are parents, nurses, retired social workers and we love these hills and valleys and we don’t want to see the horror of an evacuation.”
Larry Smith, director of communications for Vermont Yankee, said it was inappropriate for him to comment on the state attorney’s decision.
“The only interest we have with these demonstrations is to ensure the safety of our employees and the protesters,” said Smith. “They have a right to express their opinion, even though we don’t share it.”
When asked if he thought the dismissal of the trespassing charges would encourage more protests at Vermont Yankee, Smith said he had no comment, but he did he say “We will deal with things as they evolve.”
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