Scott stands by catch-and-release judge, says Legislature should fix the problem

By Guy Page
October 11, a day after Vermont Superior Court Judge Justin Jiron released to his mother’s custody a Clyde River fisherman who police say bashed a man in the head and then tried to drown him for entangling his line, Gov. Phil Scott defended the judge with a long record of ‘catch and release’ decisions.

But at today’s press conference, Scott took a stronger stance against the growing judicial practice of releasing accused offenders back into society.

Caleb Maniscalchi, 21, of Manchester, N.H., reportedly hit another Clyde River, Newport fisherman in the head with a rock and then tried to drown him. Only the intervention of another angler prevented him, according to a Caledonian-Record report of his October 10 appearance before Jiron in Orleans County Superior Court. In addition to being released to his mom for 24-hour-curfew, he had to sign an unsecured $5000 appearance bond.

Scott appointed Jiron to the criminal court bench in 2021 and reappointed him this year. Some of Jiron’s other release decisions have made waves among Northeast Kingdom law enforcement and press, including:

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.

Categories: Crime

14 replies »

  1. If Judge Jiron cannot keep the law,then we have no law to stop criminals,and he must be removed from the bench!!Now !

  2. Both Scott and Jiron are pathetic, you almost kill someone over an entangled fish line and you let this POS run wild, Oh wait he’s in the custody of his mother, yes now that’s really going to work……….. The good news is that this fruit cake will try this again but he’ll meet his match, Oh well, maybe a lesson learned, something we don’t see from our liberal justice system, we have liberals in charge, and yes that includes Scott, what a joke !! Jiron, another great decision from Scott…………………………………………

  3. You all just realizing we have a big mistake for governor? He is more liberal then most democrats and calling himself a republican is just wrong.

  4. “Scott stands by catch-and-release judge, says Legislature should fix the problem”! In the meantime, wear a helmet when you go fishing !

    • Very disappointed with Gov. Scott in his support of Judge Jiron. This guy needs to be locked up for a long time. His list is longer than my arm!!!!

  5. Just remember Bongino rule #?…”most Republicans are actually Democrats but no Democrats are ever Republicans”. Hence the issues in the congress as well.

  6. Of course… any politician brave enough to speak the truth about the Gaza genocide will get chased out of power by the actual powers operating our country. And politicians are, almost without exception, craven self-serving narcissists.

  7. If Governor Scoot is so fond of Judge Justin “Catch and Release” Jiron, perhaps he should seek to have Jiron reassigned to the Washington County District bench.

    • Judge Justin needs to be replaced. But I forgot he must be a Progressing in feeling sorry for criminals!!!

  8. I agree the legislature needs to step up (it won’t) but spineless Phil needs to do his job too and stop appointing these losers

  9. It’s hard to defend a decision by the Governor to keep this pathetic judge on the bench, but I still thank God every day that we have Governor Phil Scott and not Governor Zuckerman or Weinburger or Balint or Krowinski…because those are the only other possibilities at this point in history…

  10. January 2006: “Judge Edward Cashman sentenced a child molester to just 60 days of jail time — a sentence he said was designed to ensure the man got prompt sex-offender treatment but critics say was too soft.”

    Where was Phil? Washington County Senator
    Where was Dick Sears? Senate Judiciary Chair (and is a member of the Vermont Joint Legislative Child Protection Services)

    “Act 60 went into effect on July 1, 2015. This legislation makes several key changes possible:
    Information sharing among professionals across the child protection system
    Closer collaboration between DCF and Vermont’s Special Investigation Units
    Adoption of a mandatory six-month supervisory period for children reunified to a home in which they were abused or neglected
    Creation of a Joint Legislative Child Protection Oversight Committee”

    2023: What a difference and what progress they have achieved in nearly two decades of empty platitudes and millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars spent! Corrupted to the core and pretty likely to stay that way because it pays so well, voters are woefully ignorant, have memories like sieves, and the brain capacity of gnats.

  11. Maybe it’s time for the feds to step in…. again. What an embarrassment Vermont has become. Can you imagine being the victim of this attempted murder only to learn that your assailant (who almost killed you) was released to the custody of his mother. This crazy decision is forcing the victim to live in fear, until such time that the criminal is incarcerated. This is not what justice looks like!