Prosecutor: Scott’s demand for review of dismissed cases ‘insulting’

Local News
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In a series of social-media posts, State’s Attorney Sarah George is defending her decision to dismiss three violent crime cases because the suspects were expected to present strong evidence that they were legally insane.

George dismissed two murder cases and an attempted murder case Tuesday, saying the state didn’t have sufficient evidence to argue against the planned insanity defenses.

On Wednesday, Gov. Phil Scott questioned the dismissals in a letter to Attorney General TJ Donovan, and he called for a “thorough review” of whether charges should be re-filed.

“From a layperson’s perspective, and certainly as Governor, I’m at a loss as to the logic or strategy behind this decision to drop all charges,” Scott wrote, “especially considering the fact that the State’s Attorney is aware the Department of Mental Health has no legal authority to continue to keep individuals hospitalized when they do not meet the legal criteria for hospital level of care.”

George, in a lengthy Twitter thread, called Scott’s second-guessing of her decision “insulting to myself, all of the attorneys involved in this process, and to the victims and their families.”

Three Vermont criminal cases dismissed over insufficient evidence

The three suspects in the cases — Aita Gurung, Louis Fortier and Veronica Lewis — have histories of mental illness and psychiatric hospitalizations. They are currently in the custody of the Department of Mental Health.

Gurung was accused of killing his wife with a meat cleaver and seriously injuring his mother-in-law in October 2017. Also in 2017, Fortier was charged with murder in the stabbing death of Richard Medina. Both men were homeless at the time.

Lewis was accused of attempted murder in 2015 after allegedly shooting her 48-year-old gun instructor multiple times in Westford.  The instructor was seriously injured.

Scott said he believes the victims, their families and the public deserve a full review to ensure justice is served and public safety has been considered.

In response to Scott’s letter, Donovan on Thursday called the issue “complex” and said his office is considering “all of our options.”

“There are many different legal systems here, not just from the criminal justice system, but also from the mental health side, where you’re looking at whether or not someone is a threat to themselves or others,” Donovan said.

On Twitter, George said Scott never called her to talk about the dismissed cases. She said her decision was based on “FACTS, morals, prosecutorial ethics, our constitution, and public safety risks. 

“I have not made ANY decisions based on politics, and I will absolutely not start now.”

George’s Twitter thread is below.

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