South Burlington Man Arraigned in Rebels Stalking Case | Off Message

South Burlington Man Arraigned in Rebels Stalking Case


Attorney Bill Norful, left, and Dan Emmons at Vermont Superior Court in Burlington Thursday - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • Attorney Bill Norful, left, and Dan Emmons at Vermont Superior Court in Burlington Thursday
A defender of South Burlington High School's "Rebels" nickname pleaded not guilty Thursday to stalking a student who helped lead the push to drop the name.

Dan Emmons denied stalking Isaiah Hines, 18, who is a senior at the school. Hines was at the forefront of the effort to drop the name from sports uniforms and scoreboards on the grounds that it harkens back to the racist history of the Confederacy.

Hines is a student representative to the school board and leader of the Student Diversity Union. Emmons, 43, is a South Burlington parent who opposed the school board vote in February to drop the name. He supports a public vote on the question, which has roiled the community.

According to a three-page police affidavit presented in Vermont Superior Court in Burlington, Emmons confronted Hines at the Goodwill Store & Donation Center in South Burlington, put his hand on his shoulder and told him, "You need to be careful." He also said, "You guys have made a lot of people mad," and "You're shitting in the wrong yard," the affidavit states.

The encounter took place March 25, states the affidavit, by South Burlington police Cpl. Kevin Grealis.

Later that same day, according to the officer's affidavit, Emmons sent Hines a private Facebook message that read: "It was nice to see you and your friends today. My advice to you, our interaction stays quiet. Here's why ... The following pictures of your friend will go to Principal Phillips and her parents."

Patrick Phillips is the interim principal at South Burlington High School.

One of the pictures was of a 17-year-old South Burlington female student "with what appeared to be drugs," and another picture showed Hines and a group of students "giving the middle finger," according to the affidavit. The pictures had been posted on social media, it states.

Hines told police he felt uncomfortable after another incident with Emmons that took place following a school board meeting in February. Emmons asked Hines if he could walk him to his car. Hines said yes. "He lectured me on how I had made a mistake in asking the board to change the Rebel name ... He came off as very unhinged," Hines is quoted as saying in the affidavit.

Hines went to South Burlington High School guidance counselor Timothy Wile after the incident at the Goodwill store to express his concerns, according to the affidavit. Wile contacted Grealis, the school resource officer, who then met with him and Hines.

Hines and Wiles did not did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

During the arraignment, Emmons' attorney, Bill Norful, argued that his client should not be charged because there was no probable cause to support a stalking allegation.

"This is free speech. This is not stalking. This is no one in peril," Norful said. "This is pure politics."

As for the photos Emmons threatened to show the principal, they were on social media and should not have been posted if the individuals did not want them to be further propagated, Norful said in court.

Deputy State's Attorney Susan Hardin disagreed and said Emmons' conduct was threatening. The case is not about free speech or political speech, she added.

Judge David Fenster said that the encounter after the school board meeting did not meet the probable cause standard. But he said that the alleged incident at the Goodwill Store and the message Emmons sent to Hines on Facebook constitute probable cause for stalking, and noted that causing "emotional distress" is one of the legal thresholds for stalking.

He ordered that Emmons be free on his own recognizance and appear in court on the misdemeanor charge May 17.

Emmons was originally cited to appear on charges of stalking and a second infraction, disturbing the peace by use of electronic communication. That part of the citation was dropped before the hearing.

After the arraignment, Emmons clutched a blue-bound copy of the U.S. Constitution. He said he saw Hines at the Goodwill store by coincidence and did not put his hand on the teen's shoulder.

"I never touched him," said Emmons.

He disagreed with other aspects of the affidavit and said he was being targeted for political reasons.

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