Vermont Prosecutor Frees Criminals in the Name of 'Public Safety'

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On December 17, 2019, Michael Arnold struck Shirley Snelling-Sexton while she was snowblowing in Essex Junction, Vermont.  Shirley was severely injured -- in addition to a broken arm, she has had three rods in her neck and faces several more surgeries: her lower spine was essentially destroyed.  Shirley’s health will never be fully restored -- neither will her faith in the Vermont court system.

This was Arnold's third DUI; He registered a .26 blood alcohol level -- three times the legal limit.  Yet, he served less than 48 hours in jail for this third conviction despite causing serious bodily injury and then fleeing the scene.

It galls the public that Judge Martin Maley accepted this ridiculous plea agreement, let alone that State’s Attorney Sarah George offered a felon this sweet deal.  But Sarah George has been a vocal advocate for “decarceration,” proclaiming on Twitter that she is “Working to create true public safety by overhauling the legal system. (she/her).”  In a panel discussion last, she was pressed about incarceration for violent crimes and stated that “statistically, most who commit homicide do not reoffend.”  Sitting in the audience was lieutenant governor candidate Dana Colson, whose 19-year-old son Austin was murdered in 2018.  No one has been charged in Austin’s murder.

George puts her money where her mouth is -- she let three killers walk without charges,  eliminated cash bail for Chittendon County, and trumpets a fatuous ideology that exposes citizens to unacceptable risks:

Just doing my part to overhaul a racist and classist legal system and replace it with healthy and vibrant communities. Ultimate goal = make my job unnecessary. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

Proponents of “decarceration” want to eliminate the “inhumanity of incarceration” in favor of the “inhumanity of unleashing dangerous predators to reoffend.”  Says one such advocate: “Prisons are the problem, and the solution is to create a system that is more humane and just -- by investing in community-based alternatives to incarceration and smart justice reforms...”

But these “investments” have not been made, nor have we been told what this “solution to create a system” even looks like. Communities are deteriorating economically while an escalating opioid epidemic causes more people to turn to drugs and violence.  Those serial killers, incurable pedophiles, and violently mentally ill “victims” of an “unjust… racist and classist legal system” are being returned to real-life communities.

Arnold has been told he can’t drive drunk when his license is restored here in Vermont -- it’s a condition of his probation, and if he violates probation he’ll go to jail…. Right? 

Vermont senator Dick Sears last year proposed softening those “unjust” probation requirements:

Sears said he supports looking at bail reform and changes to the probation and parole system. He said that he doesn’t believe those who have substance abuse problems and violate conditions of release by drinking or using drugs should be sent back to jail, for example. Instead, he believes that there should be a system of “graduated sanctions” for such violations…

Vermont statutes provide for up to 15 years’ incarceration for DUI where serious injury results even for a first offense: Arnold served less than two days for this horrific crime, despite statutory language that for a third offense:

The court may impose a sentence that does not include a term of imprisonment or that does not require that the 96 hours of imprisonment be served consecutively only if the court makes written findings on the record that such a sentence will serve the interests of justice and public safety.

Michael Arnold has not answered for his crimes.  Judge Maley and Sarah George should answer for theirs.