State Police Won’t Investigate Sorrell, Federal Review Uncertain | Off Message

State Police Won’t Investigate Sorrell, Federal Review Uncertain


Attorney General Bill Sorrell - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Attorney General Bill Sorrell
Updated at 4:33 p.m.

After meeting with Federal Bureau of Investigation agents Friday to discuss allegations against Attorney General Bill Sorrell, the Vermont State Police announced that “no state-based investigation will be commenced.”

Left unsaid was whether federal officials would launch their own review. Paul Holstein, chief counsel for the Albany division of the FBI, which has jurisdiction over Vermont, declined to comment.

Last week, a panel of 11 state’s attorneys released the results of a nearly nine-month investigation into a series of allegations made by Vermont Republican Party vice chair Brady Toensing and based on reporting by Seven Days and the New York Times. The panel dismissed several of Toensing’s six allegations but referred the most serious to the state police.

That allegation centers around a Washington, D.C., dinner Sorrell attended in December 2013, during which representatives of a Texas law firm gave him an envelope stuffed with $10,000 worth of campaign donations. At the same dinner, according to a sworn affidavit signed by Sorrell, the firm asked him to file suit against the oil and gas industry. Sorrell later did so and hired the Texas firm, Baron & Budd, to represent the state.

VSP spokesman Scott Waterman said Wednesday that Friday’s meeting with the feds was being held “to determine if an investigation is warranted and who has jurisdiction to perform the investigation if one occurs.” As Seven Days reported in December, state and federal officials have previously met to discuss the matter.

Waterman declined to say whether Friday’s announcement meant that the FBI had assumed jurisdiction over the case, though he said the state had turned over the information it had collected.

“Federal authorities have been provided with facts and documents known to state police detectives relative to this complaint,” he said. “Any decision to open an investigation will be made by federal authorities.”

In their final report, the state’s attorneys indicated that they were unable to fully investigate the pay-to-play allegation because “some relevant persons and alleged actions … lie beyond Vermont’s borders.”

“Separate investigatory work is under way to deal with those allegations,” they wrote.

Sorrell, who has long denied wrongdoing, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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