State Dismisses Trespass Charge Against Braithwaite

Photo by Jennifer Hersey Cleveland

Chris Braithwaite confers with his attorney Phil White (left) prior to his pre-trial conference.

Chronicle publisher Chris Braithwaite was arrested Dec. 5, 2011, while covering a protest at the Lowell Mountain industrial wind site for trespassing on land controlled by Green Mountain Power.

A year and $22,530 in legal fees later, the charge against Braithwaite, 68, of West Glover was dismissed by the state after internal GMP e-mails, suggesting that Braithwaite had the company's consent to be on the crane path to cover the protest, were subpoenaed by defense attorney Phil White.

The state had not previously been provided with that key piece of information, which Braithwaite and White say clears him of any wrong-doing. Braithwaite had already selected a jury and was set to go to trial.

Deputy State's Attorney Sarah Baker dismissed the charge without prejudice, meaning the state could refile the charge at a later date, saying that the state's case was weak without the testimony of David Coriell, GMP's point man on the mountain.

Baker said Coriell was out of state in law school, and that the state's misdemeanor case against Braithwaite didn't warrant the inconvenience of bringing Coriell in as a rebuttal witness.

But after reviewing the e-mails, Judge Howard VanBenthuysen dismissed the charge with prejudice. "Nothing in the State's response to the Motion explains how it could resurrect this prosecution in the face of the GMP memoranda, revealed at the eleventh and a half hour to both the Defense and the State," VanBenthuysen wrote.

Braithwaite has asked GMP to repay his legal expenses and apologize for keeping mum about the e-mail exchanges, hence prolonging the case. The company has declined to do either.

On Christmas Eve, Braithwaite and the Chronicle filed suit against GMP and Coriell, saying that the still-sealed documents are now evidence of "tortious wrong doing."

Braithwaite self-published a book about the fight against industrial wind on Vermont's ridge lines, called "Stand Against the Wind -- Civil disobedience in the Green Mountain State."

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