NEWPORT – The man accused of driving a huge tractor over seven Orleans County Sheriff's vehicles denied all charges against him in Orleans Superior Court Tuesday, but not before arguing some of the counts. Roger Pion, 34, appeared with his attorney, David Sleigh.
Pion was facing charges of aggravated assault with a weapon on an officer, impeding a public officer, unlawful mischief, committing a crime with a weapon, and leaving the scene of a crash, but one of the charges was dismissed by the judge.
Sleigh argued the merits of the charge of impeding a public officer, but Orleans County State's Attorney Alan Franklin said that Pion prevented the officers from doing their jobs by running over their vehicles. Judge Robert Bent decided that there was not enough evidence to support a finding of probable cause to prove Pion impeded a public officer based on the definition of "impede" in Vermont law.
Sleigh also argued that the aggravated assault charge should be dismissed.
Franklin noted that the affidavit states that when Pion was driving away, he looked back and saw a Newport City police vehicle following him, stopped the tractor and began to back up toward the car. The Newport officers got out of their car with weapons drawn and ordered Pion out of the tractor. Pion complied without further incident, police said.
Fear of potential injury by the officer does not constitute aggravated assault, Sleigh argued. He also noted that the vehicles Pion drove over were not occupied, and that Pion never said he was going to hurt the officers who came after him.
Judge Robert Bent expressed some concerns over the charge and called the evidence weak, however the charge stands for now and Pion pleaded not guilty to it.
Pion made his first appearance related to the charges on Friday and bail was set at $50,000. The state wanted to hold Pion without bail.
Tuesday, Franklin said again that he wanted Pion held without bail because of the aggravated assault on an officer charge. But Bent disagreed, saying the argument on aggravated assault is weak. The bail amount stays sat $50,000 for now.
Pion, through his attorney, also entered innocent pleas for the counts of resisting arrest and marijuana possession from a previous incident.
In the meantime, a website has been created entitled Roger Pion the Magnificent. Tuesday. Pion's lawyer posted the following. "My firm has undertaken the defense of Roger. Without going into details, there is a lot more to Roger's story than meets the eye. Neither Roger nor his family can afford to mount an adequate defense. If you care to assist him, any donations for Roger's defense would be gratefully appreciated: Roger Pion, c/o Sleigh & Gary Trust. You can get our contact information and have questions answered by getting in touch with us: www.sleighandgary.com"