Addison County Sheriff Arrested on Sexual Assault Charges | Crime | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

News + Opinion » Crime

Addison County Sheriff Arrested on Sexual Assault Charges

By

Published June 28, 2022 at 1:31 p.m.


Peter Newton - COURTESY OF VERMONT STATE POLICE
  • Courtesy of Vermont State Police
  • Peter Newton
Updated at 5:37 p.m.

The Addison County sheriff has been arrested on charges of sexual and domestic assault in connection with a February incident at his Middlebury home, according to Vermont State Police.

Peter Newton, 50, will be arraigned Tuesday on two counts of sexual assault and one count each of second-degree unlawful restraint and domestic assault. He was arrested earlier in the day while performing "contractor work" at a construction site, state police said.



VSP began investigating Newton after a domestic disturbance in the early morning hours of February 26 involving a woman he was in a relationship with. Police say they interviewed the alleged victim multiple times before Newton’s arrest.

The case was eventually referred to Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault following the recusal of the top prosecutor in Addison County.

State law holds that when a sheriff is arrested or otherwise unable to fulfill their duties, a county’s elected high bailiff takes over. In Addison County, that’s Dave Silberman, a Middlebury-based attorney.

Silberman said in a press statement Tuesday afternoon that he had spoken with one of Newton’s deputy sergeants, who assured that the force would continue to provide police services “during this difficult time.” Noting that Newton will resume control of the department once he’s released from custody, Silberman then called on the sheriff to resign.

“Like all people charged with crimes, Sheriff Newton deserves a presumption of innocence pending trial and conviction,” Silberman wrote. “However, it is simply impossible for Sheriff Newton to continue serving the community in a law enforcement capacity under the cloud of these very serious charges.”

Newton's attorney did not immediately respond to a call for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Newton has stirred up controversy repeatedly during his four-year tenure as sheriff. In 2020, he accused the police chief in Vergennes of falsifying time sheets to make more money; the Vermont Attorney General's office looked into the claim and said it found no evidence to back it up. Last year, Newton accused Brandon officials of corruption following a dispute over a traffic stop involving the town manager's son.

Newton told VTDigger in April that he believed the criminal probe against him was the work of political opponents trying to "soil" his name ahead of his reelection campaign.

He has since chosen not to run, writing in a Facebook post on Sunday that it was the "best decision" he had ever made. "Law Enforcement is a thankless job and public service is even worse," he wrote.