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Former Vermont Trooper Charged With Striking Puppy, Perjury

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Zachary Gauthier - VERMONT STATE POLICE
  • Vermont State Police
  • Zachary Gauthier
A now-former Vermont State Police trooper faces criminal charges of animal cruelty, perjury and violating an abuse prevention order.

Zachary Gauthier, 31, is accused of punching his family's puppy hard enough last December that he broke a bone in his hand, according to Vermont State Police. He then lied about the cause of his injury while under oath during a February court hearing in which a woman sought an abuse prevention order against him, authorities allege.

A state police spokesperson said Gauthier, then a detective stationed at the Westminster barracks, was suspended without pay on February 24, the same day a state judge granted the relief-from-abuse order against Gauthier, according to earlier reporting by VTDigger.org. He resigned last week, the spokesperson said.



Gauthier, a trooper since 2013, was cited Tuesday morning and arraigned in the afternoon, when he was released on conditions pending trial. Springfield Police separately cited the former trooper on a charge of violating the February abuse prevention order by repeatedly contacting the woman and staying at a prohibited residence. Gauthier has denied all of the charges.

According to a police affidavit filed in support of the animal cruelty and perjury charges, Gauthier became angry when he came home and saw that the dog had defecated in a mudroom. A woman at the residence told police that Gauthier grabbed the roughly 6-month-old puppy by its collar and dragged it into the basement. She heard the dog yelp, then heard Gauthier groan in pain.

The woman said Gauthier told her he'd punched the dog on the top of its head and thought he dislocated his knuckle doing so.

He went to Springfield Hospital that night for X-rays and treatment. While at the hospital, Gauthier sent text messages explaining that he hadn't hit the dog "that hard" and that the injury was a "lesson learned," the affidavit states.

During the relief-from-abuse hearing months later, Gauthier testified under oath that he had dragged the dog outside, not the basement, and injured himself when he fell on the icy driveway.

Vermont State Police detective sergeants from agency headquarters investigated the animal cruelty and perjury allegations "to ensure investigators were from outside the area where Gauthier was assigned," the agency said in a press release Tuesday.

When the investigators confronted Gauthier in early April during an interview with him and his attorney, Gauthier acknowledged that the knuckle injury was not caused by a fall. He'd told the investigators that he'd only hit the dog with an open hand, jamming his finger as a result.

That's the story Gauthier is sticking to, according to his attorney, Rich Bowen.

"It was not a punch," Bowen said, describing the incident as a disciplinary act that is being "blown out of proportion."

"It hurt him a hell of a lot more than he hurt the dog," Bowen said.

Investigators did not find evidence of physical injury to the dog, according to the affidavit. Veterinarians who treated the animal several days after the December incident for an unrelated issue did not note injuries or signs of abuse or neglect, the affidavit states.

Gauthier is also accused of lying about another issue during the February hearing. Last October, Gauthier allegedly crashed his truck into a ledge in Reading, causing a six-pack of beer inside the truck to explode. Gauthier testified, however, that there was no alcohol in the car.



The crash was never reported to police, a Vermont State Police spokesperson said.

Because Gauthier frequently interacted with Windsor County prosecutors as a state trooper, Washington County State's Attorney Rory Thibault is prosecuting the criminal cases against him.

At Gauthier's arraignment, Thibault said, his office did not seek to have Gauthier held in prison pending trial or cash bail, but did secure conditions barring Gauthier from possessing weapons, among others.

Though Gauthier is not charged with domestic violence, the victim in the civil abuse prevention order alleged that he made comments about his ability to abuse his power as a law enforcement officer and made her fear for her safety, VTDigger previously reported.

The woman said she had filed a claim against him with Vermont State Police, "but he was not disciplined after he allegedly told his employer that she had lied," the news site reported.

VSP spokesperson Adam Silverman declined to answer questions Tuesday about that claim or the agency's handling of it, citing "confidentiality rules regarding internal matters."