Defense lawyer gets acquittal of police officer charged with assault, takes media to task

Suspect Vincent Ford falls after being tased by St. Albans PD officer Mark Schwartz in February, 2019. Stillshot from St. Albans PD bodycam.

By Guy Page

An Associated Press news story on the Friday, January 18 acquittal of former St. Albans police officer Mark Schwartz for simple assault was lacking in crucial details, Schwartz’s lawyer Robert Kaplan of Burlington concluded. So he’s taken the news service to task. 

“As reported by AP (on WCAX and other websites), a jury cleared Schwartz of simple assault charges. Video of the February, 2019 incident can be seen on police body camera video, available on the Seven Days website

“But the blow-by-blow details of how Schwartz subdued the suspect with a taser were sketchy in the news report. So a day after the AP story hit the news wire, Kaplan issued his own – and, he says, much more complete – account of the incident that landed the former cop on trial for unnecessary force in the tasing of a man on Main Street in St. Albans City. In a letter to AP, Kaplan wrote:

“This was a one day trial on Friday.  The State did not have an expert witness.  The defense called Steve Ijames.  I have attached his CV and his report in this case.  The Vermont Attorney General regularly relies on Mr. Ijames as their expert witness in use of force cases.  Mr. Ijames has also done high level training for the Vermont State Police.  He testified on behalf of Mark Schwartz and was clear and consistent that Mark Schwartz’s use of the taser was within the standards for police practices and was an appropriate choice in this arrest.

“If you had attended the trial you would have learned:

  1. Mark Schwartz is a military veteran who completed the Army’s Mountain Warfare School;
  2. Mark Schwartz was among the most highly trained officers at St. Albans PD;
  3. Mark Schwartz was the use of force instructor and taser instructor for St. Albans PD;
  4. Mark Schwartz was selected to be on the Franklin County SRT (SWAT) Team;
  5. In 2018, Mark Schwartz made 25% of all arrests for St. Albans PD;
  6. Mark Schwartz routinely worked multiple overtime shifts per week, in addition to SRT training, because St. Albans PD was badly understaffed;
  7. Vincent Ford was fleeing from Mark Schwartz and was not under Mark Schwartz’s control when the taser was deployed;
  8. Mark Schwartz’s use of the taser to arrest Vincent Ford was reviewed and cleared by St. Albans PD several times;
  9. Mark Schwartz was not disciplined or reprimanded by St. Albans PD for using his taser to apprehend Vincent Ford;
  10. Mark Schwartz resigned from policing due to burn-out from overwork and exhaustion;
  11. The VSP investigation did not include interviewing any witnesses;
  12. The Attorney General, and not Vermont State Police, made the decision to issue Mark Schwartz a citation for the crime of simple assault.
  13. Mark Schwartz remains certified as a law enforcement officer in Vermont and could return to policing if he chose to.

“In addition to these facts, an investigative reporter would have discovered:

  1. Vincent Ford has been arrested multiple times since this event and had faced charges including multiple assaults on first responders and is facing similar charges now
  2. On November 11, 2019, Mark Schwartz responded to a call and discovered that Nicholas Luciano had been repeatedly stabbed by his roommate and was near death.  Mark Schwartz was the only St. Albans PD officer with combat casualty training.  Mark Schwartz immediately used his own, non-department issued tourniquet kit to save Mr. Luciano’s life.  Mark Schwartz was issued an award for this event.”

Categories: Media

12 replies »

  1. Good guys 1, scumbags 0………………too bad this doesn’t fit the narrative for most of the reporting media.

  2. I’m going to call this differently.
    Criminals, wokesters and elitist state’s attorneys +1
    Good guys -1
    St. Albans appears to have lost a good police officer because of this.

  3. The city loses a good officer because of the states politics of pandering to the mentality ill and criminals.

  4. SMH … The slow destruction of a once wonderful state … How did so many people with fluff between their ears be allowed to take over from those with common sense.

    • The answer to your question is that brain dead voters obtain their faux virtue by voting for anyone with D after their name. This story is a prime example of the consequences.

  5. All feelings about officers and whatnot aside constitutionally this story to me is missing context.

    Police cannot just walk up and arrest you or detain you, without reasonable articulable suspicion of you breaking a civil ordinance, or that you’ve committed a crime (not the same as a civil ordinance or infraction). This is been ruled on hundreds of times in the supreme Court.

    I didn’t see anything in these articles that explains what crime or civil ordinance he was accused of breaking?

    As for tasing him, no way, not unless it was a violent crime he was suspected of committing at that time, or if he had a prior history of attacking police officers. The guy initially tried walking away from the police officer , he was drinking and pedalling, it’s easily understood why he didn’t want a PUI. However he stopped moved away from his bike and then asked what he did. This makes number seven above patently false. At this point the officer just said get down on the ground get on the expletive ground and then said taser twice and pulled the trigger all in a matter of less than two seconds. He had reasonably stopped running and stood away from the bike holding it up the officer was far enough away (officer kept very good distance almost like he had the intent of using the taser to begin with) and there was no weapon in his hand.

    I understand that this is split second decisions and that officers need leeway to be able to do their job.

    What if the officer just said I believe you’ve committed assault and battery on so and so. I need to place you under arrest to sort this out. During that time if that young man did not move with his hand continuing on the handlebar what had changed for the officer?

    Nothing and he still could have tased him if he didn’t comply. That’s why I believe he was wrong. There’s a 50% chance that all he had to do is answer the guy’s question and he would have gotten down on the ground and said okay I’m caught. He wasn’t given the chance to do it for himself.

    If he was still attempting to get on the bike or attempting to run away or move towards the officer have at it, but that wasn’t the case.

    Then we wonder why he’s assaulted police officer since then….

    I wonder if he walks up to them and tells them to get on the expletive ground?

    • The officer was dispatched after a call from a tavern reporting a drunk and disorderly patron abusing and threatening other patrons. While on route, dispatch reported to the officer that the suspect had now smashed the entry door to the business and continued his threats. Upon arrival, and before exiting the vehicle, the officer watched the suspect walking towards the tavern and continuing his threats. Tasing avoided potential injuries to the patrons, the officer and the suspect.

      • Thank you for that. Still don’t think it was the right decision by the officer, but it was a much closer decision with your description and he probably shouldn’t lose his job over it.

      • The issue for the jury was NOT whether it was the “right” decision. The question was whether a reasonable police officer would reasonably make that decision under similar circumstances. There might indeed be several reasonable decisions. That’s the law.

  6. Whenever a case of what is presented to a court as “overzealous policing”, there is opportunity for a judge or jury to exercise some level of activism at the expense of justice. With such anti-police sentiment being propagandized into society by the BLM-friendly media, there is the temptation for members of a jury to virtue-signal and assume excessive force. Thanks go out to the members of this jury for apparently ignoring the public sentiment and instead ruling on the facts. It’s sad to see an apparently exemplary peace officer leave the force because the standards that have been placed on their performance of essential duties have become unreasonable and politicized. Thank you for your service, Officer Schwartz, and thank you Guy Page for presenting these facts in his defense.