By MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Writer
NORTH HERO -- Two convicted felons, wanted for failure to appear in Vermont Superior Court in North Hero, both remain on the run after judges in two nearby counties struck bail for them.
Instead, the two state judges told police when they arrested the suspects in January to issue new court citations. The defendants ignored them again.
Grand Isle County State’s Attorney Doug DiSabito said both cases are part of an ongoing disregard for proper bail requirements and a breakdown in the current statewide unified judicial system.
DiSabito, in a letter to Chief Superior Court Judge Brian Grearson, said judges sitting in Chittenden and Franklin County struck bail for two dangerous felons after they were caught in January. Both defendants subsequently blew off the citations that the judges directed police to re-issue, he said.
Grearson responded in a Feb. 16 email it would take him time to research and connect with all the court officials. DiSabito responded that he appreciated the effort, but noted “time is of the essence.” He reported the court in Grand Isle County had been left in the dark and his office was never notified that the felons were arrested and then freed.
DiSabito said the documentation speaks for itself. It reported:
-- Kristin K. Verchereau, 36, South Hero has eight failures to appear, five felony convictions, seven misdemeanor convictions and was due to appear in court in North Hero in January, but was again another no-show. An arrest warrant was issued and bail set at $50, but struck when she was arrested.
-- Stephen G. Bessette, 34 of Alburgh has two felony convictions, 14 misdemeanor convictions, eight pending charges and two failures to appear. He was wanted for both simple assault and violating his conditions of release. Bessette also was facing two violation of probation complaints -- one for threatening behavior and the other for failing to communicate with his probation officer. DiSabito asked for $1,000 bail. Judge Robert Mello
DiSabito said he learned in early February that both Verchereau and Bessette were at the Anchorage Inn in South Burlington. When he reached out to South Burlington Police, they told him they had arrested Bessette on Jan. 4, but Judge Martin Maley had ordered the $50 bail be struck. He told city police to issue Bessette a new citation ordering him into court in North Hero.
Bessette never appeared for his Jan. 14 hearing and the Grand Isle County Court was never notified that the arrest had been made.
DiSabito said Maley apparently struck the bail based on a memo from Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George where she said she would not seek bail in most cases.
“...George’s polices and guidelines have absolutely no authority or force in Grand Isle County,” DiSabito said in his 4-page letter to Grearson.
DiSabito said he learned Colchester Police had arrested Verchereau on Jan. 12 on the Grand Isle County warrant for failure to appear. When Colchester Police contacted Judge Howard VanBenthuysen, he ordered her cited into court and told the arresting officer to explain that bail would be increased if she failed to appear. Verchereau failed to appear on Feb. 12 in North Hero as directed by the judge, DiSabito said.
And just like in the Bessette case, the Grand Isle County Court was never notified about Verchereau’s arrest -- nor was his office, DiSabito said.
DiSabito said both the Vermont Supreme Court and the state legislature consider a defendant’s appearance at a court proceeding of paramount importance.
He noted this was the latest snub in a long series that the court in Grand Isle County has endured at the hands of the Vermont Judiciary.
DiSabito noted that State Sen. Randy Brock, R-Franklin/Alburgh appeared to hit the nail-on-the-head when he recently opined “this situation is part of a broader problem with the organizational performance of the Judiciary.”
DiSabito noted the Vermont judiciary moved to a unified court system, but has been unable to ensure proper protections.
He said if the Vermont Judiciary can’t fix its own problem, the legislature may need to step in. He copied Sen. Dick Mazza, D-Grand Isle/Colchester, Brock, his seatmate, Sen. Corey Parent, R-Franklin/Alburgh and Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, chair of the judiciary committee.
Also copied were Reps. Leland Morgan and Michael Morgan, both R-Grand Isle/West Milton, Sheriff Ray Allen and former State Sen. President Pro Temp John Campbell, who now oversees the state’s attorneys and sheriffs in Vermont.