By Guy Page
A House bill introduced Tuesday, February 14 by South Burlington Representative Martin LaLonde, a lawyer, Democrat and the chairman of the House Judiciary committee, would give the Vermont Criminal Justice Council another powerful tool to find police officers guilty of law enforcement misconduct.
H251 would add the issuance of a Brady or Giglio letter as a basis of law enforcement misconduct under the jurisdiction of the Vermont Criminal Justice Council, the state’s police disciplinary board.
Two U.S. Supreme Court decisions – Brady V. Maryland, and Giglio V. United States – require prosecutors to reveal evidence that could exonerate a criminal defendant. It has become the practice of some prosecutors around the country, including in Vermont, to issue what are sometimes referred to as Brady/Giglio letters when they learn that a law enforcement officer has acted in a way that calls into question their credibility, according to a November, 2022 legislative 2022 report.
The letters often precede formal action against the police officers by the VCJC. In recent months, the Vermont Criminal Justice Council has banned two Vermont police officers from ever working again in Vermont law enforcement – a process known as “decertification.”
The VCJS decertified Springfield Police Officer Anthony Moriglioni in November for grabbing the neck of a suspect believed to have drugs in his mouth and about to swallow them. In September it decertified Williston Police Officer Travis Trybulski for an unauthorized traffic stop of a New York car.
Also, Orange County Sheriff William Bohnyak was sanctioned last month for reportedly assigning an unqualified deputy to a special investigations unit. The council merely sanctioned him because it conceded that elected county sheriffs are not subject to state decertification.
All three of these actions were taken without Brady/Giglio letters having the force of law in the eyes of the Criminal Justice Council. H251 would change that – potentially giving the council even more clout in banning police officers from working in Vermont.
H251 is cosponsored by Representative Mike McCarthy of St. Albans, the chair of the House Committee on Government Operations and Military Affairs. Because it is sponsored by these two committee chairmen, it will likely receive a thorough committee review in either Judiciary, Government Ops, or both.