Washington County State's Attorney Williams Resigns | Off Message

Washington County State's Attorney Williams Resigns


  • File: Terri Hallenbeck
  • Scott WIlliams
Updated on Tuesday, January 9, 2018.

Washington County State's Attorney Scott Williams has resigned, two months after going on health-related leave and seeking care at the Brattleboro Retreat.

In a statement released Monday by the Vermont Department of State's Attorneys and Sheriffs, Williams suggested that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and specifically mentioned the 2015 murder of Department for Children and Families social worker Lara Sobel.

"The office cannot function efficiently under reduced staffing, particularly in light of the significant number and the complexity of cases it handles. This decision will also allow me the time to focus on my health,” said Williams, who was first elected in 2014. He later added: “The effect of the murder of Lara Sobel requires that I focus on regaining my health."

Gov. Phil Scott on Tuesday named Rory Thibault as interim Washington County State's Attorney. Thibault previously served as a deputy in that office and most recently served as an assistant attorney general in the Vermont Attorney General’s Office. Williams would have faced reelection in November 2018.

Williams disappeared from public view in November as he was scheduled to take the witness stand at the sentencing hearing for Jody Herring, who murdered Sobel and three others in 2015.

Williams, who happened on the scene and comforted a dying Sobel, was expected to have to answer questions about his actions that day. A Seven Days story questioned a key detail of Williams' response.
Williams filed a last-minute motion to quash his subpoena to testify and sought care at the Brattleboro Retreat, which provides mental health and addiction treatment.

"Williams said that, despite his awareness of PTSD, his desire to serve the community and the progress of criminal justice reform prevented him from recognizing his own health care needs, and that it was affecting his work performance," the statement announcing his resignation said.

State regulators have been investigating a "community fund" that Williams oversaw. In at least a few instances, defendants who pleaded guilty to charges filed by Williams paid money intended for the fund.
And last week, VTDigger.org reported that a Washington County judge dropped charges in a child sex case, citing Williams' office's "failure" to give it the "attention it deserves." Prosecutors from other counties have handled some of the caseload in Washington County, which was down to one deputy after Williams went on leave.

Thibault will serve as interim state's attorney until the Washington County Democratic Committee provides the governor with recommendations for a replacement, Scott's office said.

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