AG USES SECRET REPORTS, PUBLIC EVASIONS TO JUSTIFY NON-PROSECUTION
By William Boardman Email address removed
Taser victim MacAdam Lee Mason, born Feb. 1973 by macadammasonart
When the Attorney General of Vermont decided not to prosecute a Vermont State trooper who used a taser to kill an unarmed, 39-year-old epileptic artist, few Vermonters were surprised, most of the Vermont media managed to get the story partly wrong -- and none of the media took note of clear falsification in the AG's press release describing his decision.
AG William Sorrell, 65, issued a carefully written release on Friday, January 25, announcing that "criminal charges should not be filed" against Trooper David Shaffer, 29, who used his taser to kill Macadam Mason, 39, on June 20, 2012, at his home in Thetford. Sorrell's press release indicated that he and a county prosecutor had "completed independent reviews" of the fatal "incident," but it did not explain their conclusion beyond saying, in summary:
"The review was solely to determine whether criminal charges should be pursued against Trooper David Shaffer". In a criminal case, the State bears the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer's use of force was unreasonable under the facts and circumstances of the case.
In other words, the prosecutors seem to imply, the trooper may or may not be actually guilty, but they don't think they have enough evidence to make a conviction a sure thing. But they do not explain why they think that.
Although the "reviews" were done by the prosecutors' separate offices, the actual investigation of the Vermont State trooper was done by the Vermont State Police itself. There has been no independent investigation by any other official entity.
No Formal Finding of "Reasonable Fear for Safety"
The press release noted that, under Vermont law, the killing might be justified if the officer was found to be in reasonable fear for his safety or the safety of others. The release is clear that neither prosecutor has formally made that finding, only that they have agreed that they would have a hard time proving that the use of force was unreasonable under the circumstances.
Most of the release goes on to give the Attorney General's version of the events of June 20, 2012, an account that is largely consistent with the public record, but with significant omissions that contribute to the creation of an overall false impression.
Although previous reports by the State Police and media refer to only one phone call, the report describes the start of the chain of events leading to Mason's death this way:
"The [State Police] investigation determined that after 3:00 pm on June 20, 2012, the Vermont State Police barracks in Bradford received two calls from personnel at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center requesting a welfare check at an address in Thetford, Vermont. Dispatch was told that an unidentified male at the address, who sounded intoxicated, had stated that he was suicidal and homicidal, that he had access to weapons and that he hoped the police would shoot him."
To date, the caller or callers from the hospital have not been publicly identified and transcripts of the call or calls have not been made public. The initial State Police "press statement" on June 21 indicated a single phone call from an "Intake Crisis Technician" at 1511 hours -- but made no reference to "a welfare check" or to Mason's expressing any hope the police would shoot him. Since the Attorney General's report itself is still secret, it's hard to know where those variations come from, but they do tend to denigrate the victim to the benefit of the police who killed him.
Unidentified Troopers Told to Leave Premises
The press release goes on to describe unidentified "troopers" finding Mason inside his house, where he refused to come out or to let them in. The police then contacted the homeowner, Mason's life partner, Theresa Davidonis, who came promptly to the scene. She found the house empty, but found Mason in the woods behind the house, where she talked with him for awhile, or as the press release characterizes it: