Jennifer Hersey Cleveland
NEWPORT CITY — The attorney for the six Lowell wind project protesters – arrested in August – wants to depose the surveyor upon whose conclusions the state is relying for its unlawful trespass cases.
During a status conference Tuesday in Orleans Superior Court-Criminal Division, Kristina Michelsen learned that Judge Howard VanBenthuysen’s decision on her motion to dismiss the charges against William Roddy, 66, of Irasburg, Dennis Liddy, 64, of Westfield, Meredith Pearce Jones, 63, of Irasburg, Carol Irons, 72, of Albany, Keith Ballek, 57, of Sheffield, and 51-year-old Raymond Micklon of Craftsbury Common could be complete by the end of next week.
Deputy State’s Attorney Sarah Baker opposes both the motion to dismiss and the request to depose the surveyor.
It’s a misdemeanor case, in which depositions are generally not taken, plus the witness has testified before in similar matters, Baker said.
Baker said the surveyor has also provided sworn testimony in the civil case between Green Mountain Power and Don and Shirley Nelson, in which ownership of the land where protesters were arrested is in question.
Michelsen argued that Baker’s statement served to support her motion to dismiss, which is based on the premise that if ownership of land is in question, the state can’t possibly prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the protesters were not permitted to be on the land.
Michelsen wrote in the motion that expert survey evidence will also show that Trip Wileman, who leases land to Green Mountain Power, used an incorrect method to create the boundary, which is well within the property owned by the Nelsons.
|“Hold your fire until you get the motion decision,” VanBenthuysen suggested.If the case is still viable after he issues his decision, Michelsen can file a motion to compel the state to allow the deposition, he said.
The motion also states that pursuing the prosecutions of the six individuals constitutes an abuse of process by the state by seeking to resolve a property line dispute through the criminal court process.
The protesters were arrested Aug. 6 while blocking a private road and preventing Green Mountain Power vehicles from getting to the construction site, according to Sergeant Michael LaCourse’s affidavit.
Six other protesters who were found guilty by a jury of unlawful trespass – Dr. Ron Holland, 67, of Irasburg, Anne Morse, 48, of Craftsbury Common, David Rodgers, 69, of Craftsbury, Ryan Gillard, 23, of Plainfield, Suzanna Jones, 50, of Walden, and Eric Wallace-Senft, 46, of Woodbury — will be sentenced on Dec. 11 at 3:30 p.m.
Chronicle publisher Chris Braithwaite, who was arrested at the same time last December while covering the protest, is scheduled for a pre-trial conference and jury selection on Nov. 28 and 29.
Outside the courtroom after the most recent group was arraigned, Ballek said, “We don’t feel we were trespassing. The land is still in dispute and the court date isn’t until another year.”
Irons said, “We’re all concerned that this is disputed property that is not resolved.”
The court has put off hearings regarding the civil court dispute between GMP and Don and Shirley Nelson, she said.
At the time of the arrests, Charles Pughe, project manager for GMP, told LaCourse that GMP incurred a loss of at least $15,000 due to the protest.
According to arrest summaries, Ballek has been employed by the state Department of Forests and Parks for 23 years; Irons and Liddy are retired; Jones has been a chef at Newport Natural Foods for eight years; Micklon is a student at Sterling College; and Roddy is a self-employed brick layer.