By Guy Page
Judge Justin Jiron Monday, October 30 refused a prosecutor’s plea to send a man to a psychiatric facility for a competency assessment, and instead released him. The man then returned home and beat a woman and a child, police say.
According to today’s Caledonian-Record, Cody Myott, 30, of Newport Center was before Jiron – twice appointed a Superior Court judge by Gov. Phil Scott, and with a lengthy record of controversial ‘catch and releases’ – on charges of resisting arrest and multiple violations of conditions of release.
Both the county prosecutor and the mental health screener wanted a competency screening. “The state is pretty concerned regarding his paranoia delusions and we ask that this court today order him to in-patient treatment,” Orleans County State’s Attorney Farzana Leyva reportedly said.
Myott then went home and allegedly beat a woman and a child. Three hours after his release, he was on top of the woman, beating her, and screaming that her magic wouldn’t work on him, and dragging her to the toilet and hitting her head on the rim, and claiming that “I am the law around here,” police reports published in the Caledonian-Record say. An eight-year-old also was assaulted.
Back in court on Tuesday, Myott pleaded innocent to assault charges. This time the defense attorney asked for a competency evaluation, which Jiron granted.
This week’s ‘catch and release’ is the latest in a long string for Jiron, including:
Last month, Jiron released into his mother’s custody an angler who police say tried to kill another Clyde River fisherman who had tangled his line.
In May, Jiron found no probable cause for Vermont State Police arrest of a man for burglarizing a St. Johnsbury pizzeria. He issued the decision through a clerk, rather than follow the usual practice of telling the state’s attorney and police in open court. “The fact that he didn’t even taken the bench to address it is pretty egregious,” State’s Attorney Jessica Zaleski reportedly told the Caledonian-Record. “Without an explanation from the judge it’s pretty hard to figure out what exactly is missing.”
Last October, Jiron dropped felony drug trafficking-to-minors charges against the operator of the Best Buds Smoke Shop in St. Johnsbury. The man’s arrest followed a six-month investigation by state authorities. Jiron said the bust lacked probable cause due to lack of witnesses.
A ‘person of interest’ in the December 1, 2022 shooting death of David Peatman, 66 at his home in Eden was released on $300 bail – and then failed to show for two St. Johnsbury court appearances. The suspect, Shawn Rich, already had a history of hiding from the law. Whether Rich has appeared before a Vermont court since December, 2022 is not known.
These decisions and others led state senator Russ Ingalls to fume in a June 2023 letter to fellow senators: “This guy is still a judge?!”
At the October 11 press conference, VDC noted Jiron’s pattern of catch-and-release and asked Scott, “Did you make a mistake with him?”
“I have to have faith in his judgment and what he’s doing,” Scott answered. “I don’t know anything about the specific cases, but I think he made it to the next level to become a judge because I had faith in his integrity and ability to make those decisions.”
Despite standing by his man on October 11, Scott signaled impatience with the catch-and-release practice at his press conference today.
A Rutland Herald reporter asked about his city’s Democratic mayor questioning the judicial catch and release policy. Scott responded: “We need to make sure people are held accountable. We can’t just let people go.”
The Herald asked why there’s more courtroom catch and release now than in years past. “I think it’s a legislative initiative,” Scott said “It’s happened over time.”
The practice should be addressed in the upcoming Legislature, Scott suggested.