Editor’s note: The Clemmons Family Farm is a 148-acre farm in transition from private ownership to a non-profit dedicated to African-American history, arts and culture. State trooper Andrew Leise is currently on voluntary sick leave. WCAX has reported on the dispute between the two.
By John Klar
Vermont’s Human Rights Commission (HRC) has contrived a false, race-based narrative against former State Trooper Andrew Leise.
Andrew Leise was an outstanding Vermont State Trooper for nearly 23 years until he and many other officers were dragged into a landlord-tenant dispute at great waste of valuable public resources. When the unstable white tenant was not arrested, the BIPOC landlords invoked the race (and gender) card, and leveled allegations against Trooper Leise in the HRC. The HRC set aside customary deference to police discretion to rehash the case in hindsight, and imputed racist motives to Trooper Leise without objective evidence. Now a career is destroyed, as is police morale.
As an attorney of many years, I have been involved in numerous landlord-tenant disputes. These cases can be quite shocking – I have seen entire houses gutted of electric and plumbing service, with holes deliberately punched through walls. These are not generally “criminal” cases because there is no trespassing when tenants hold a lease. I know of one case where a tenant dragged the parts for a 351 cubic inch Cleveland engine into a living room and reconstructed it on the carpet as retaliation; in another, the tenants conducted voodoo ceremonies throughout the house, leaving chicken blood on walls and carpets.
But back to the case at hand. The Clemmons Family Farm – operated by family members of Francois Clemmons, a Middlebury College educator and known to generations of children as “Officer Clemmons on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood – had a tenant of questionable mental health who caused damage to their premises and made them feel unsafe, so they secured a protective order against him. As often occurs, tensions escalated while the parties awaited the time-consuming (civil court) eviction process to proceed. State Police were dispatched dozens of times, and veteran officers perceived that the parties were trying to leverage the police against one another.
In the Clemmons’ case, the protective order created is a criminal matter when violated. Police are required to establish clear evidence to file criminal charges for a protective order violation, and in this case felt that the damages or evidence did not arise to the level of charging the tenant. Instead they tried to calm matters and encourage him to relocate. But the Clemmons decided this was subconscious racism and sexism, and filed suit with the HRC, which agreed.
Vermont’s HRC appears to believe that prejudice against people of color so saturates society that “the only cure for past discrimination is future discrimination.” The fact that systemic racism in Vermont has been alleged but never proven remains to be a legal and factual problem. The HRC’s proposed solution of deliberate, offsetting government racism is a worse cure than aspirations of equity was used to cudgel good police officers like Andrew Leise.
Thomas Sowell has statistically proven that this whole scheme is a lie, but the new racists at the HRC block their ears to such truths – they get paid and empowered to unearth subconscious racism and weaponize it to destroy others’ lives. Defendants are powerless against such schlock, as seen here.
In his once-famous novel A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess explored the idea of using government to condition the human mind. A later essay by Burgess in The New Yorker demonstrates why scam outfits like Vermont’s HRC are to be avoided: “It would seem that enforced conditioning of a mind, however good the social intention, has to be evil.”
The HRC’s initial investigation concluded there were insufficient grounds to find racist or sexist motives by the Troopers: “I am unable [sic] find evidence that would sustain a finding of discrimination based on race, color, or sex.” But this finding was later recast, and the HRC has ruled that Trooper Leise acted with racist and sexist intent – imputed, and entirely inferred by his conduct.
The Clemmons family did not initially have problems with Vermont State Troopers, but when their tenant (not the state police) secured a restraining order against them, they were shocked. In the HRC’s 98-page report, the following is related about the exchange when troopers served the landlord with the court-ordered protective order against her:
The officers spent about an hour and six minutes with Ms. Clemmons. Their general tone was professional, polite, and informative. References to being arrested, photographed, and handcuffed were explained as what could happen to anyone who violated an order and as part of a resulting process. They came across on the recording as a standard warning to not violate the order so that embarrassment could be avoided. From this investigator’s point of view, they were not explicitly presented as threats but were designed to get the listener’s attention. Both officers listened to her complaints about Barreda and offered advice about going to court to contest the temporary order and recommended what kind of evidence she should take with her. The meeting ended on what sounded like a friendly note, and included laughter, compliments from them on her artwork, the Barn House and Dr. Clemmons comment about the situation someday becoming a movie. The most stressful sounding point in the exchange on Dr. Clemmons’ end was her reaction when Ravelin told her that the court had ordered her to return Barreda’s belongings. She essentially “freaked out” and began to worry about the associated financial costs and coordination that would have to occur when he suggested that she needed to return them within 24 hours.
The HRC’s opinion focuses on the lack of a court order to return the tenant’s property, but in fact it was still the (civil) law that it be returned, and the troopers (who did not seem to make the claim deliberately) were merely trying to help the tenant move on, and he needed his stuff. This is just practical, and common in these cases. But the Clemmons decided they had been discriminated against:
Cpl. Leise and Sgt. Ravelin picked up the warrant and went to Charlotte to serve it on Dr. Clemmons. In her complaint, and in subsequent emails, Dr. Clemmons described the experience of being served in her home by two white, male troopers as a traumatic one that solidified her sense she was being treated in a discriminatory manner on the basis of race, color and sex: ….I was frantic, in tears, and distraught by the threats of the VSP to arrest me, handcuff me, take me to the barracks, photograph me, and issue a press release along with my photograph to the local newspapers stating that I had been arrested for stalking or sexual assault if I did not comply with their interpretation of the Court Order. In addition, in an original interview after the complaint was filed, Dr. Clemmons stated that although Sgt. Ravelin was courteous, it was essentially a terrifying experience of being bullied and threatened with arrest, handcuffs, and photographs.
But, this is what is called being “treated equally” under the law. The troopers don’t issue court orders; they serve them. Would this be the same paranoid response if the tenant and troopers had been black? This is the problem with landlord-tenant and other domestic disputes: emotions run high, and people become highly irrational.
Dr. Clemmons relates her supposed subconscious “feelings” at being subjected to the identical process of any other Vermonter:
As you know full well, as a Black woman sitting alone in a room with two armed white troopers, I was doing everything I could to not in any way come off as aggressive, noncompliant, or threatening. Laughing and smiling and chit-chatting are survival skills, …In all of our interactions with the VSP both Josh and I went out of our way to be as polite, as complimentary, and as nonaggressive as we could. That laughter and chit chat was just me trying to make sure that I would make it through that 1 hour- plus session ok and not wind up in jail or worse.
Are police supposed to discern her alleged panic, while she jokes and laughs? This is 2022 Vermont, not 1955 Mississippi, and Dr. Lydia Clemmons relates no objective evidence of any racism by these troopers aside from her subconscious emotional “terror of being a black woman.”
But worse is the HRC, which devoted hundreds of pages to attach significance to the disparity in the court order over the return of property as proving racist motive by Trooper Leise. To achieve this result (itself also a hindsight revision of a trooper’s quite reasonable use of discretion), the HRC employed legal somersaults. It went into past and unrelated complaints against the tenant, implying the police should have made an arrest here – not the HRC’s job, and well outside the scope of the evidence.
The HRC even criticized the police for not investigating a so-called vehicle theft, when the victim acknowledged she had allowed the tenant to use the vehicle (i.e., another civil matter): “Stealing someone’s vehicle (and its contents) and vandalizing it is a crime, but no affidavit for this was pursued by Trooper Knight or Cpl. Leise.” This overstretch by the HRC is extraordinary, reflecting its extreme stretch to impute wrong, wrongly.
The HRC crawled under every rock:
This investigation sought to determine whether the individual troopers involved in the case had been disciplined for “over-stopping” motorists of color in order to have another measure of their approach to providing or depriving services to persons of color. This inquiry was blocked by the Attorney General’s Office and General Counsel for the Department of Public Safety who stated they would instruct the troopers not to answer these questions as this information was considered to be confidential disciplinary information. This investigation argues that such information should have been available. If statistics are going to be kept in order to identify and thus prevent biased policing, there should be transparency with respect to the identity of officers involved in over-stopping. The state represented that none of the troopers involved had “ever been disciplined for anything related to a discrimination or racial (or other protected category) prejudice allegation.”
The stretches made by this shameful “investigation” are truly worth a read by Vermonters. (Make sure to get a bag of popcorn, to watch the fictions fabricated by this bend-over-backwards sham of a “court” proceeding). The HRC slanders all police:
This case illustrates why people of color and women fear turning to the police, and distrust government agencies of all kinds. The power that law enforcement has to manipulate the facts through its exercise of discretion in the delivery of services is significant. ….The Vermont State Police allowed Gregory Barreda to prey on Dr. Clemmons and terrorize her and her family and destroy a building on one of the few African American farms left in Vermont. The building that they allowed Barreda to destroy was the heartbeat of the Clemmons Family Farm – a place that the elder Clemmons bought and cherished and developed over decades and where the next generation of Clemmons worked to bring people from across the country and the world to celebrate and create African and African American history, culture art and community. The Clemmons Family Farm’s reputation outside of Vermont is a testament to the efforts of both generations.
No bias there…. What on earth does this drivel have to do with the facts of the case? The HRC is creating a new kind of “African history” in Vermont, that’s for sure – all on the record. This pathetic official opinion is layered with similar guff. Never have I seen such a disgraceful determination by a public body, unless perhaps it is in other HRC cases that must be brought to public light.
After two hundred and fifty years of resistance, systemic racism has indeed descended on Vermont. The HRC is seeding racist hatred, and abandoning basic legal principles to institutionalize a poisonous, racist ideological “theory.”
This article explains who the real racists are
Hey, race baiting is powerful. Some people will use any power to get what they want. All of us need to get above this nonsense.
The police are often powerless in such cases. Such situations are infamous.
The HRC is mostly useless when there are real problems.
More of the same from these cultural Marxists that drive us to exhaustion by their social pathologies: the reverse discrimination, the violence, the endless complaints, the blind racial solidarity, the bottomless pit of grievances, the excuses, and the reflexive animosity. These Progressive Cultural Marxists explain everything with racial business models used to earn their living and to grant them privileges at the expense of all others.
How is it that the Vermont Humans Rights Commission can “supposedly” read a human being’s mind and intent? This is why ALL persons are innocent until “proven guilty.” Is the Human Rights Commission in Vermont above the Law?
Our State and United States Constitutions work for ALL equally, if we will choose to take them seriously, read them and use them.
No media outlet, beside one article I saw, perhaps out of Stowe has explored the fact the tenant in question was Grey Barreda – who is in the news all the time as one of the lead fighters for the homeless community that was living on Sears lane – Mr Barreda is litigious and full of himself. The most exhausting kind of person for law enforcement or social services to deal with. This state does little to address people with severe mental illness/substance abuse making other people’s lives less safe. The police knew how he was and is – they were stuck between a rock and a hard place as far as dealing with him. As they are with all people like him.
Yet to read articles about Mr. Barreda involving the encampment, he is held up as a champion of the disenfranchised. Never a mention of his racial terrorizing of this family. So the Burlington council member who was providing Grey with ongoing legal advice regarding the encampment was actually supporting a racist man who terrorizes Black people. Has the that guy had his feet held to the fire yet? No – the Human Rights Council clearly didn’t look at the totality of the situation or they didn’t care. Mr Barreda could have filled a Human Rights complaint against the Clemens too, for what he perceived as maltreatment. No doubt he is a protected class too.