by Peter Freyne
The decision by Windsor County State's Attorney Bobby Sand (at left) to drop Attorney Martha Davis' two marijuana possession felonies down to a court-diversion deal since it's her first offense drew Re-Elect Governor Jim Douglas, himself, into the fray.
As has been widely reported, Douglas publicly announced Vermont State Troopers and Game Wardens should bring future Windsor County pot busts to the office of Attorney General Bill Sorrell [who is already kinda busy right now with murders and such, isn't he?]
That drew a rather pointed letter Tuesday from the "Windsor 13" - two state senators and 11 state representatives, led by Senate Majority Leader John Campbell and State Sen. and folk singer Dick McCormack.
Here's a taste:
Dear Attorney General Sorrell,
We urge you to exercise your office’s discretion to ignore Governor Douglas’ directive instructing law enforcement officials to bypass the Windsor County State’s Attorney, and to bring Windsor County drug cases to your office. Should such cases indeed be forwarded to your office, we urge you to redirect them to their proper venue. We suggest this out of concern for electoral integrity, separation of powers, prosecutorial discretion, the nonpolitical integrity of our judicial system, and the value of the Court Diversion program. Please note that our concern has nothing to do with approval or disproval of our present drug laws. By bringing charges and directing the defendant to Court Diversion in the case that precipitated the Governor’s directive, Mr. Sand is enforcing the existing law.
The people of Windsor County have repeatedly and overwhelmingly elected Robert Sand as our States Attorney. In doing so we have chosen him to prosecute criminal cases in our county. Mr. Sand derives his just powers in this matter from the consent of the governed. The Governor does not. By directing cases away from Mr. Sand’s legitimate authority the Governor has thwarted the electoral will. By refusing to cooperate with the Governor, you would re-establish the electoral authority of the people of our county.
Clearly the Governor is not alone in disagreeing with Mr. Sand’s judgment in regards to the case of Martha Davis. But nowhere does the Vermont Constitution require gubernatorial approval of State’s Attorneys’ decisions. Whether or not one agrees with his decision, Mr. Sand was well within his prosecutorial discretion...
Governor Douglas has intemperately and inaccurately described the Court Diversion program as merely “a get out of jail free card.” We’re sure you know that Court Diversion holds offenders feet to the fire...it also saves a great deal of money in court costs and corrections expenses. The many Vermont volunteers who work in this fine program deserve better than the Governor’s dismissive insults. By refusing to cooperate you would lend the prestige of your office to undoing the damage the Governor has caused in this regard.
The letter wraps up by noting “the Governor’s apparent lack of a sense of proportion.”
As everybody knows, we just experienced the “worst week of violent crime in our history...Our correctional facilities are overcrowded and understaffed. It is preposterous that the Governor would choose to focus, not on these problems, but on the routine decision to send a nonviolent first-time offender to Court Diversion. We urge you to distance yourself from so irresponsible and distorted a position."
This one has legs, eh?
Maybe a ripe issue that a long-haired Progressive/Democrat with statewide campaign experience could use to help pull the biggest gubernatorial upset since Phil Hoff surprised Republican Incumbent Gov. F. Ray Keyser Jr. in 1962?