Angry calls made to the Vermont Secretary of State’s office after the 2020 election are protected speech, the Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault said recently.
Over the past year, elections officials in numerous states, including Vermont, have received disturbing emails, phone calls and voicemail messages regarding the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. The Vermont Secretary of State’s Office said it received numerous voicemails that were offensive, profane and upsetting. The office informed the Vermont State Police and the FBI of these messages. Both agencies conducted independent reviews. The state police obtained an independent legal analysis of the content of the messages from prosecutors in Washington County.
After review, the state’s attorney determined that the messages did not rise to the level of criminal conduct and are in fact protected speech.
Recent media coverage has suggested that the phone number in question was “untraceable.” However, that quote was taken out of context from an internal email, which also stated that numerous court-ordered search warrants would be required to determine subscriber information, among other things. Because search warrants require probable cause for an underlying crime, and because there is no evidence of criminal conduct at this point, the state police is unable to proceed with any court process as part of the investigation.
“The safety and security of state employees and public servants is a priority for the Vermont State Police and my office. This matter was investigated with the utmost seriousness, as was appropriate given the nature of these repugnant messages,” Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault said. “Although the communications are offensive and alarming, I concluded that they failed to rise to criminal conduct under current Vermont law. Fortunately, the rule of law is alive and well in Vermont, much due to the dedication of our election officials and public servants.”
The Vermont State Police spokesperson said the VSP knows that elections officials are dedicated, hardworking public servants who are the backbones of our democracy. “Like all of us, they deserve to go to work and do their jobs without fear and intimidation. That said, the police should not and cannot make up or willfully misconstrue the law in order to effect a desired outcome,” the spokesperson said. The Vermont State Police takes threats to all government officials seriously and will thoroughly investigate and forward for review any threats to the appropriate prosecutorial authority, he said.
Categories: Police Reports