NEWPORT CITY, VT – Roger Pion, the man accused of smashing seven Orleans County Sheriff’s Department vehicles, walked out of the Northern State Correctional Facility Thursday morning with a smile on his face.
Earlier this month, Pion used his father’s duel wheeled farm tractor to line up and crush the parked vehicles behind the Orleans County Sheriff's office in Derby. After destroying the vehicles, Pion drove the tractor toward downtown Newport. Police caught up with Pion on the Causeway before he made it to Main Street.
Pion gave one-word answers to members of the press as he walked from the main entrance of the prison to a waiting car. When asked if he was happy to go home, he answered with a simple, “Yup.” Pion said he hopes to return to work, thanked his supporters and said he had no regrets.
When asked if he would do it again, he replied, "I can't say."
Pion's attorney, David Sleigh, called Thursday a "good day" and said Pion's family will be working together at their jobs today.
Immediately following the arrest, Pion received tremendous support from friends, family and supporters worldwide. Some people have called Pion a hero and dubbed him Roger the Magnificent. They contributed enough cash to help cover the $50,000 bail. Even after making bail, Pion remained in prison until Thursday on a pre-existing case.
“He had a work crew sentence in connection with some driving charges and a disorderly conduct,” explained Sleigh, who spoke to the press outside the prison yesterday. “Rather than try to get that reinstated and have that drag out for a period of time, we decided to max that out and get that behind us so that now we've just got the new charges we have to deal with.”
Pion faces numerous felony and misdemeanor charges including aggravated assault with a weapon on a law enforcement officer, seven charges of unlawful mischief, two charges of using weapons in the commission of a crime and leaving the scene of an accident. Sleigh has a pending motion to dismiss the individual charges of damaging the cruisers. He said it’s his opinion the state can have just one charge of property damage. If the court accepts Sleigh’s motion, Pion’s potential jail time would decrease. Sleigh doesn’t know if Pion will serve any jail time.
“He has time in now,” Sleigh said.
The court denied Sleigh’s motion to dismiss a charge of aggravated assault, but Sleigh said he would have more opportunities to make the request again. Getting that charge dismissed is important, because when and if that happens, the charge of possession of a weapon during the commission of a felony gets dismissed.
“The state would no longer have the ability to argue that he be held without bail,” said Sleigh. “They withdrew basically their request to do that, because I guess they were too busy, but I suspect they’ll renew that and then there will be a hearing on whether to hold him without bail sometime in the future. Obviously the chances of that happening, now that’s he released, if he’s complying with conditions, would be diminished.”
Pion has a number of previous charges, mostly driving offenses, said Sleigh, who doesn’t think Pion intended to hurt anybody in the incident, nor does Sleigh think Pion is a violent person.
“When you talk to people, I think everyone will say he’s gentle,” said Sleigh.
Pion walked out of prison without any fanfare even though some of his fans planned to rally for him. However, only two individuals showed up at the prison located on the Glen Road, just outside the city. One of the followers claimed to be a citizen journalist and declined to make a statement to the press. The second individual identified himself as Bob Smith.
“I want to see Roger released and find out what he has to say about the situation,” said the man. “It’s a unique event and I think it would be interesting to find out what is going on.”
Meanwhile, the sheriff’s department continues to rebuild its fleet. At least two new replacements have arrived. In addition, the University of Vermont Campus police donated a used police cruiser. Last week, Sheriff Kirk Martin said the department's insurance company gave enough money to cover the replacement of about 2.5 cruisers, leaving the department and ultimately the taxpayers to cover the difference.
“Who else would you suggest do it? Roger?” replied Sleigh, when questioned why the burden on replacing the cruisers should fall on taxpayers. “Those are issues that will have to come down. I would have expected the sheriff’s department to have better coverage.”
Conditions of Pion’s release include not operating any motorized vehicle, including tractors.