Any observable stretch of time has shown that even Vermont police are prone to lying. Given that police have a vested interest in maintaining their monopoly on state violence, anything they say should be taken with a grain of salt. And so it is strange to see quotes from police officers, whether they be Burlington’s Interim Police Chief Jon Murad or police union representatives, printed in local and national media outlets verbatim, police blotters reprinted as news, and officers’ words written as objective truths from unbiased experts.
While Vermont police officers can lie to you during an arrest or during questioning even if you are a child, and while they can lie to the media during interviews and face no consequences, lying to police officers is a criminal offense. Vermont Statute 13 VSA 1754 says that people who lie to police “shall be imprisoned for not more than one year or fined not more than $1,000 or both.”
Around the country we are told that police officers are demoralized by activists calling for their firing, defunding, and for civilian oversight. For some reason, the numerous cases of officers caught lying to protect themselves and their coworkers never seem to factor in.
At The Rake Vermont we thought it would be worth documenting every time a Vermont police officer is caught lying. It’s also worth stating the obvious: as advocates and researchers have long shown, it’s impossible to count how many times police officers have lied. Even lies under oath in court proceedings, cynically coined “testilying” by NYPD officers, are often hidden from public scrutiny. We have compiled articles that show police have been caught lying at least fifty times since 1993. We will continually update this piece every time a Vermont officer of the law is caught abusing their power in this way.
Know any we missed? Send it to us and we will add it to this ongoing list.
An investigation in 1993 showed that Vermont State Trooper Stephen Kennedy lied to obtain a Massachusetts driver’s license in 1989 weeks before his Vermont driver’s license was set to be suspended for a 1988 DUI charge. He listed the address of a Greenfield, MA bar as his residence, telling the Massachusetts DMV he needed it to work an undercover operation.
A judge ruled Burlington Police Officer Douglas Thorburn supplied an underage woman with a drink during a bachelor party along with fellow officer John Kehoe at Club Metronome in August 1993, finding Thorburn’s testimony inconsistent. Thorburn and Kehoe resigned in April 1994.
Northfield Police Officer Tim Trono was charged with evidence tampering and threatening a witness in multiple misconduct cases. (Further details of the entire story are found here and here.) Trono would later be acquitted of the assault charges, and he pled guilty to obstruction of justice charges as an accessory to unlawful mischief, agreeing to testify against other officers involved.
Northfield Police Officer Kenneth Falcone, one of the officers charged with unlawful mischief after firing a gun in a store owned by a vocal police critic, admitted to perjury in 50 traffic court cases and to having taken marijuana from the police evidence locker. Falcone would become a state’s witness, get arrested for failing to appear in court to testify against Northfield Police Chief Michael O’Neill, and also fail a polygraph leading the defense to question his testimony. O’Neill later agreed to a plea deal and faced no jail time.
Vergennes Police Chief John Dugan was convicted for destroying evidence on DUI charges for his friends.
Vermont State Police Officer Russell Penka was fired after being accused of lying in a sworn affidavit and to other officers during an investigation into his conduct about his reporting of a domestic abuse case. Penka told a Pownal woman that because he did not see any signs of domestic abuse, he wouldn’t arrest her husband.
Barre Town Police Officer Michael Jacobs admitted to lying in a sworn statement in a drunken driving case.
St. Johnsbury Police Chief Paul Devenger asked bar staff to lie about the presence of his brother, Vermont State Trooper Pat Devenger, who was drinking while on call duty for the state police, during an investigation into Pat Devenger’s conduct.
Vermont State Trooper John Plaster choked an 18-year-old in Eden and lied about it in his statements, not disclosing the choking, while stating the man was resisting arrest. Other troopers on the scene contradicted Plaster’s claims and confirmed his choking of the man in their statements. Plaster resigned in March of 2007 after an internal investigation. Plaster was sentenced to 12-24 months, split to serve 30 days in jail and the rest of the time on probation, and had to attend anger management.
A court ruled that South Burlington Police Officer Jack O’Connor illegally searched the vehicle of a Winooski resident during a traffic stop in December of 2004, as O’Connor lacked probable cause and performed a warrantless patdown search.
Dale Trombley, a Colchester police officer, was investigated for letting Burlington Police Officer Donald Lilja go after being pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving. Then Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan dismissed two drunken driving cases of Trombley’s. However, Donovan filed no charges in the investigation due to neither officer being willing to cooperate.
Rutland Police Officer David Schauwecker was charged in Vermont District Court with misuse of evidence and providing a false report to law enforcement after allegedly taking pornographic materials from evidence. He was fired in April 2010.
Once again, South Burlington Police Officer Jack O’Connor lied in his reporting when arresting a Black New York man on a drug charge. O’Connor failed to read the man his Miranda rights, and video evidence shows O’Connor and other officers only noticed the marijuana after he was arrested on possession charges. O’Connor also lied about the man’s vehicle location and can be seen on video taunting him while searching him.
The South Burlington Police Department was sued by a South Burlington woman, who accused Officer Jack O’Connor of entering her apartment without a warrant and performing a traffic stop without probable cause. In the suit, the woman states that O’Connor made her undergo an x-ray search for drugs, telling a hospital doctor that he had the authority to order such a search. O’Connor was fired from the department, recieving a $52,000 payout. He later sued then Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan. The case was thrown out, and O’Connor lost his appeal.
Vermont State Police Officer Jim Deeghan wrote 973 false traffic tickets over a 12-year period while falsifying his timesheet to take over $100,000 in overtime pay. He also reported responding to two car crashes and a false alarm that never happened. Deeghan was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay restitution.
Burlington Police Officers Ethan Thibault and Brent Navari shot to death a man with a history of mental health struggles within two minutes of arriving at the scene in Burlington’s New North End. Officers claimed the man was trying to attack them with a shovel, but several eyewitnesses disputed the officers’ report. Michael Schirling, police chief at the time and current commissioner for the Vermont Department of Public Safety, refused to comment on the case. The city of Burlington would not open the case even after Thibault was charged with domestic assault in 2015.
A Colchester police officer, Tyler Kinney, admitted he stole drugs from an evidence locker. It was later revealed that he also stole two guns from evidence. Kinney was sentenced to four years in prison, and thirty criminal cases he was involved with were later dismissed.
Christopher Lopez of the Burlington Police Department agreed to a plea deal for lying in a police affidavit in 2016 about smelling marijuana to justify a police stop. He resigned from his job and got a year of probation, along with 40 hours of community service. The State’s Attorney Sarah George dropped 14 pending cases that were brought by Lopez but did not reopen cases that had already closed. The only reason the officer was caught was because a fellow officer, Nicholas Rienzi, failed to turn off his body camera, and Lopez admitted to Rienzi on camera that he couldn’t smell marijuana and was trying to “get creative.” In the footage, Rienzi says nothing and does not report Lopez. Rienzi was paid $95,000 in 2019 before leaving for Connecticut in 2020.
Sean Wilson of the Brattleboro Police Department was investigated by the FBI after renting from a man charged with selling cocaine. Several of Wilson’s rent checks had “for cocaine” written on them, and he had also provided information to his landlord regarding police investigations. While Wilson’s landlord pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, Wilson denied the relationship.
Hartford Police Officer Kristinnah Adams lied to a supervisor about why they took a long time to get to the scene of a call.
Daniel Steere, a Manchester police officer, was charged with grand larceny after it became clear he had stolen over $2,000 from evidence lockers. Steere initially pleaded not guilty, but changed his plea and got a suspended sentence and four years probation along with a prohibition from working as a law enforcement officer.
Officer Joshua Paulette of Bellows Falls Police Department was placed on New Hampshire’s “Laurie List” for lack of credibility.
Rutland City Police Officer Jeffrey Warfle claimed someone was acting aggressively and disorderly, and Warfle used excessive force to arrest them. He later admitted they were not acting in such a manner, and he never wrote an affidavit for probable cause.
Sophie Patenaude of St. Johnsbury Police made an appointment with the Caledonia County State’s Attorney for trial preparation, but later claimed that she never received a calendar notification, then said she had no memory of it and never missed the appointment.
Jonathan Fredholm of the Berlin Police Department was fired after his integrity was put into question when he released privileged information during a police investigation.
Northfield Police Chief John Helfant, formerly of Berlin Police and Vermont State Police, was untruthful in an affidavit regarding a search warrant.
After Addison State Attorney Dennis Wygmans saw an unsettling traffic stop video with Addison County Sheriff Timothy Maxfield in which Maxfield accused occupants of being gang members based solely on their race, Wygmans refused to prosecute any more of Maxfield’s arrests. Maxfield’s job in the department was in jeopardy, and he was paid $21,000 to resign his position.
Jimmy Platkas of the Rutland City Police Department wrote in an affidavit that force was used when a defendant was struggling, unhandcuffed. Video evidence shows that the person arrested was, in fact, handcuffed.
Adam Lucia of Rutland City Police used force on a handcuffed person arrested. He also signed an affidavit that directly contradicts video evidence of the event.
Vermont State Trooper Brett Flansburg stopped a vehicle and claimed he overdosed by touching fentanyl. Matthew Birmingham, director of the Vermont State Police, defended this lie in a press release. After publishing the initial press release, VTDigger published a fact check disproving the overdose claim, as it is nearly impossible to overdose by touching fentanyl.
Jason Lawton, of the St. Albans Police Department, was fired after beating a handcuffed woman. Lawton was fired and charged with assault, but two other officers, Zachary Koch and Michael Ferguson, helped Lawton with the restraint and faced no consequences. Former officer Paul Morits contradicted Saint Albans Police Chief Gary Taylor, telling Seven Days that he had told the chief about this incident months before it went to the press.
In 2018, Christopher Devito of the Windham County Sheriff’s Office was accused of cheating on a Vermont Police Academy exam but was exonerated. In 2019 he submitted multiple search warrants and claimed that each warrant was reviewed by the county attorney’s office, even though only a single warrant had been.
Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo was caught lying to Seven Days reporter Courtney Lamdin on tape about a twitter account he had created to harass a local activist (this writer). He also did not disclose these accounts in a legal filing where he was sworn in under oath.
Burlington Interim Police Chief Jan Wright admitted that she also had created several fake social media accounts to harass and intimidate Burlington Police Department critics. She was put on administrative leave the same day as Brandon del Pozo resigned.
Richard Olmsted of the Ludlow Police Department attempted to destroy evidence related to a case. Olmsted deleted bodycam footage which showed him failing to detain, screen, or arrest a driver under the influence. The driver was given a ticket and later crashed and was arrested by a different police department. Olmsted denies deleting the footage, but supervisors believe he lied.
Fair Haven Police Chief Bill Humphries issued parking tickets for violations such as speeding and then reported the tickets inaccurately as Vermont Civil Violation Complaints. This allowed him to give lower fines associated with parking tickets while writing paperwork to make it look like he had issued speeding tickets.
Poultney Constable Dale Kerber was found to be issuing tickets in the same manner as Fair Haven Chief Humphries.
Ed Dumas, an officer with the Rutland Town Police, never entered a case in which children egged a house. Dumas allowed the kids to work off the damage instead. One of the children had a parent in the Rutland City Police Department.
Damon Angelo, a Castleton Police officer, made a comment to a fellow officer using racially derogatory language and “joking” that he would search a car without probable cause while employed with Rutland City Police. Angelo also submitted a case to the Rutland County Attorney’s office that was inconsistent with video evidence.
Damon Nguyen of Rutland City Police was investigated by the Vermont State Police for suggesting he may have lied, for potential sexual assault, and for furnishing alcohol to someone under 21. Nguyen was not hired at a new department and both the Attorney General and Bennington County Attorney declined to file charges.
Darren Kennedy of the Middlesex Barracks of the Vermont State Police lied to internal affairs about transporting a personal friend via cruiser while on duty. He resigned the same month.
Winooski officer Christopher Matott was charged with six counts of domestic assault. While working in the South Burlington Police Department, Matott’s girlfriend told two South Burlington police officers about the abuse. Kelsey Monroe and Cassandra Ellison never disclosed that information to superior officers. Mattot was also accused of using derogatory language including the N-word.
Rutland City Police Officer Emilio Rosario altered a sworn, written statement in subsequent conversations with the county attorney. He also claimed to have seized a truck, but it was later found to be independently impounded, and in a separate incident he claimed to have seized three phones from a defendant while one was later found in their car.
A Williston police officer, Timothy Oliver, crashed his vehicle and then lied to Colchester police officers about this. The town of Williston severed his employment, providing him with two weeks of pay, 95 hours of accrued vacation time, unemployment benefits, and a promise from the town they would not disclose any of his misdeeds. Several months later Oliver was charged with domestic assault, unlawful mischief, leaving the scene of an accident, and lying to officers.
State Trooper Nicholas Cianci out of the St. Johnsbury Barracks was arrested and later charged with domestic assault. Conditions included not contacting his former partner for 18 months. Cianci told his partner that if she reported him, no one would believe her, and he also threatened to have her child taken away by the state.
Vermont State Troopers Raymond Witkowski and David Pfindel, out of Shaftsbury Barracks, and Shawn Sommers, out of Rutland Barracks resigned after it was revealed that they created fake Covid-19 vaccination cards. An FBI investigation was opened into their misconduct.
The ACLU of Vermont accused Interim Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad and Mayor Miro Weinberger of lying to the public and presenting misleading crime data to support their agenda to hire more police officers. The ACLU called their argument a “false narrative,” fear mongering by using misleading and inflammatory rhetoric.
Emily is a writer and organizer on the editorial collective of The Rake Vermont.