State's Attorney Declines to Prosecute Chittenden Corrections Officer | Off Message

State's Attorney Declines to Prosecute Chittenden Corrections Officer


Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility - FILE: LUKE AWTRY
  • File: Luke Awtry
  • Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility
Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George has declined to prosecute a corrections officer who was at the center of a Seven Days investigation into alleged sexual misconduct, drug abuse and retribution inside Vermont's only women's prison.

Daniel Zorzi, a shift supervisor at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility, had been accused of wide-ranging misconduct, including drug use on the job and having sex with women while they were under supervision of the Department of Corrections.

But in a letter to Corrections Commissioner Jim Baker on Thursday, George wrote that she had determined that a Vermont State Police investigation into Zorzi had not uncovered "sufficient evidence" to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt" that he had committed a crime.

George, however, left the door open for future prosecution, emphasizing that her decision was based on the information available "at this time."

"If further information is provided to the Vermont State Police, we will review that evidence and re-evaluate the strength of our case," George wrote.

And citing "multiple instances of concerning behavior" detailed by state police, she added that she would no longer consider Zorzi a credible witness.

"I want to make sure it is clear that my office is unwilling to call him as a witness on behalf of the State and will not accept any criminal cases from him going forward," George wrote.
George was not available for an interview Thursday afternoon but sent Seven Days her letter in response to an inquiry about her decision. George  requested that Baker add her letter to Zorzi's personnel file so that "any future law enforcement agencies that he may apply at will have access to this information."

More than a dozen current and former corrections officers and inmates told Seven Days last year that Zorzi appeared to be intoxicated while on duty at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility. But while records showed that prison officials had received several reports of Zorzi's alleged misconduct over the years, he had continued to climb the ranks.

Zorzi was finally suspended in October 2019 after a longtime inmate filed a complaint accusing him of taking her and another woman to a Colchester camp to engage in drug use and sex. Both women were under DOC supervision at the time.

Baker, who was appointed to lead the department on an interim basis in the wake of the Seven Days exposé, announced George's decision during a press conference on Thursday that was originally billed as an update on the department’s out-of-state prison contract, which has been renewed for another year.

Baker said that he did not want to speculate on George's reasons for not bringing charges. But he said that after reading the investigative report himself, he believed that she had come to the "right conclusion."

Seven Days requested a copy of the state police report Thursday afternoon but has not yet received it.

Zorzi was initially placed on paid leave, but a department spokesperson said Thursday that the state had reached an agreement with his union that allowed it to no longer pay him while he's off the job.

The spokesperson was unable to say exactly when that change occurred. Zorzi, who has repeatedly refused to speak to Seven Days about the allegations, could not be reached.

Baker said Zorzi will remain on leave pending the results of an internal human resources investigation. The commissioner expected that review would be finished within the next 30 days.

The state has also commissioned a broader, independent probe of the troubled prison being conducted by former U.S. attorney Tristam Coffin of  Burlington law firm Downs Rachlin Martin. That investigation is ongoing, Baker said.

Related Stories

Speaking of...