A Vermont Police Academy employee who initially reviewed the evidence in a case involving a St. Albans cop says he never concluded that Joel Daugreilh was justified in using pepper spray on a shackled teenager in 2017.
"My opinion at the time is the same as it is now," Drew Bloom, director of administration at the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council, said Wednesday. "I thought the use of force was sketchy."
Attorney General T.J. Donovan has pointed to earlier statements attributed to Bloom to explain why he didn't prosecute Daugreilh when his office first considered the case in 2018. Donovan said he personally believed Daugreilh's actions were "pretty egregious" but didn't press charges because the police expert he tapped — Bloom — had determined they were "reasonable."
Donovan reopened the case earlier this year after Vermont Public Radio sought documents and video related to the investigation. On Monday, the AG charged Daugreilh, who is no longer on the St. Albans force, with misdemeanor assault. In interviews this week, Donovan explained the reversal by saying "new information," not politics, guided his decision.
While reviewing the case files requested by VPR, Donovan said his staff reached out to Bloom again as a matter of "due diligence." Bloom "frankly, equivocated" on his earlier position, Donovan told Seven Days on Tuesday, prompting the attorney general to seek a second opinion.
Bloom said he was never able to render a conclusion because he hadn't personally interviewed Daugreilh to judge his motive. In an interview Wednesday, Bloom said he was confused as to why anyone thought he had defended the officer's conduct.
"I never said that that use of force was reasonable," Bloom said. "I said the same thing I said the first time: I was unable to give an opinion on it. I don't know where this is coming from, that I said this was an OK use of force."
The criminal affidavit against Daugreilh refers to written notes prepared by former assistant attorney general Evan Meenan about a conversation between him and Bloom in May 2018.
"During the conversation, Bloom told Meenan initially that he couldn't formulate an opinion on 'reasonable or unreasonable' and later stated that it was 'reasonable' because he felt like [alleged victim Nathan] Willey was 'active resistance,'" the affidavit prepared by Vermont State Police Det. Sgt. Karl Gardner states.
File: Sasha Goldstein
Attorney General T.J. Donovan
A spokesperson for Donovan said on Wednesday that the AG relied on Meenan's notes in assessing Bloom's professional opinion.
Bloom said he had offered to submit a written report explaining his stance back in 2018 but that Meenan told him it wasn't necessary. Meenan left the office the following month and passed the investigation off. He declined to comment about his conversation with Bloom, citing the pending criminal case.
"I don't know why no further action was taken two years ago when this happened," Bloom said.
The AG's office said "it is not unusual" not to ask for a formal report in an instance in which charges are being declined.
Last year, however, Donovan relied on a formal written report about a use of force when announcing that he would not charge a Burlington cop involved in a physical altercation outside the University of Vermont Medical Center. The man punched by the officer died days later.
Daugreilh's case had not received any publicity at the time Donovan declined to prosecute him. Since then, another former St. Albans police officer, Jason Lawton, was fired after video surfaced of him punching a handcuffed woman in a holding cell. Problems have continued to mount for the St. Albans department in the months since, prompting the city to hire outside consultants to review the department's hiring practices.
Donovan charged Lawton with simple assault last fall.
"Something changed," St. Albans city manager Dominic Cloud said of Donovan. "I hypothesized that what changed was the growing number of events in St. Albans, and he was determined to do something, to right those wrongs."