Emails indicate GMP wanted to avoid the publicity associated with arresting a journalist.
NEWPORT – Just days before the start of the trial of Chris Braithwaite, the state abruptly dropped the trespassing charge against him, claiming that emails from GMP had nothing to do with the dismissal. However those emails seemed to indicate that GMP implicitly permitted Braithwaite to be on the property.
Braithwaite, 68, of West Glover, is the publisher of the Chronicle in Barton. The state dismissed the case following the arrival of internal emails subpoenaed from Green Mountain Power (GMP) by Braithwaite's defense attorney, Phil White.
Braithwaite was covering a protest against GMP’s wind turbine project on Lowell Mountain December 5, 2011 when he was arrested along with six protesters, and charged with unlawful trespass.
The emails were sealed under a protective order, but Attorney Phil White, who represents Braithwaite, asked that the emails be unsealed. Dec. 10, a judge unsealed a portion of the emails.
The emails are between GMP employees written a couple of days after the arrests occurred. They express frustration over the event and question why Braithwaite was arrested when GMP’s orders were not to arrest him.
Stephen Terry, with Worth Mountain Consulting, wrote to Dotty Schnure with GMP and others, “As Robert asks, did the leadership instruction not to arrest CB just not get relayed fast enough Monday morning?”
Dave Coriell with GMP was on the mountain that day with the protesters during the arrest event.
“It didn’t get relayed to all the officers involved. That said, I know the sheriff had no intention of arresting Chris. Chris actually arrested himself by physically walking back to the middle of the crane path. I don’t care who you are, if you call a police officer an expletive, your chances of getting arrested increase. He stepped over a professional line,” Coriell wrote in an email to his colleagues at GMP in response to Terry’s inquiry. “That said, we had no intention of arresting the press…”
In an email from Robert Dostis with GMP to his colleagues, he states, "(W)e gave the explicit instruction that Chris was not to be arrested. Does anyone know what happened?”
In another email, Dostis wrote, “Frankly I don’t understand why Chris was arrested since you gave the exact instruction that he not be. (A)ll of Vermont press is now engaged in the discussion about first amendment rights…."
"They are doing this because they want to annoy us in hopes we become aggressive and they can show everyone what a mean and arrogant foreign owed company they say we are….”
Deputy State’s Attorney Sarah Baker said that the case was not dismissed because of the emails, but because she did not want to subpoena Coriell to testify because he is currently out of state. Baker said that she was unaware of the content in the emails prior to receiving them following the subpoena.
Braithwaite has spent the last year dealing with the criminal charge, which has reportedly cost him about $20,000.
The state dismissed the charge without prejudice, meaning that it can bring it up again at a later date. White has filed a motion asking the state to dismiss with prejudice. White wrote in the motion that because a jury had already been drawn, double jeopardy should apply.