Vermont AG commits to ‘thorough’ review of dismissed criminal cases

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The Vermont Attorney General’s Office said Tuesday it will review three Chittenden County criminal cases dismissed by state prosecutors because the defendants were expected to present strong evidence they were legally insane at the time.

Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George dismissed two murder cases and an attempted murder case June 4, saying the state didn’t have sufficient evidence to argue against the planned insanity defenses.

“Despite a retention of forensic psychiatrists who conducted thorough evaluations of the defendants, the state does not have sufficient evidence to rebut these insanity defenses,” George said.

Scott responded the following day, telling Donovan in a letter that he was “at a loss as to the logic or strategy behind this decision to drop all charges.” He said the victims, their families and the public deserve a full review to ensure justice is served.

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

In his letter to Scott, Donovan called the matters surrounding the dismissals “complex.” He said any decision to revisit the cases and file new charges “requires due care and considered consideration.”

“As you know, the State’s Attorney is an independent constitutional officer who has responsibility for prosecuting crimes that occur within her jurisdiction,” he wrote.

But, saying “public safety is the first responsibility of government,” he agreed to conduct a thorough, independent review of the cases.

For her part, George​​ 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” in a lengthy Twitter thread.

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.

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