Senate bill: up to 5 years in prison for threats to public officials

Threats to school one reason for bill, Sen. Sears says

Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday discusses a bill expands criminal penalties for threatening state officials.

By Guy Page

A handful of Vermont state senators want to extend ‘criminal threatening’ statutes to protect state officials, school board members, and other “groups of persons” from threats of injury or death. The American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont warns the bill “risks potentially chilling political expression.”

Under a bill discussed yesterday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Vermonters found guilty of threatening state officials, Vermont school boards, and other groups of people in schools and other public areas, could be imprisoned for up to five years.

The push for S265 began following an angry call to the Secretary of State’s office following the 2020 election was reported by Condos. Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault later found the call was not prosecutable. Momentum grew after school boards in Vermont and nationwide were faced with non-violent but vocal groups of parents angry over Critical Race Theory instruction and mask mandates. 

In a response to a national school board group’s calls for action against ‘domestic terrorists’ at school board meetings, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland Oct. 4 promised Department of Justice and FBI intervention “measures designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel” in every jurisdiction in the U.S.A. – of which Vermont is one. 

Garland later backed off the statement, and school board associations in Vermont and across the U.S. repudiated the national school board letter. 

What’s the purpose of S265? Co-sponsor and Judicary Chair Richard Sears said Vermont needs to protect mask mandate enforcers and school boards. 

I can try to explain it as one of the sponsors of the bill,” Sears (D-Bennington) said in a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting yesterday. “What we’re attempting to get at, without naming just election workers – originally the request came from [Secretary of State Jim] Condos – we were also looking at the store owner who’s threatened over a masked mandate…. what about a school board that’s threatened, for example.”

The other sponsors are Sen. Alison Clarkson (D-Windsor), Rebecca Balint (D-Windham), Ann Cumming (D-Washington), Mark MacDonald (D-Orange), Richard McCormack (D-Windsor), and Andrew Perchlik (D/P Washington).

S265 would “expand the scope of the crime of criminal threatening.” It says “a person… making a threat that places any person in reasonable apprehension that death or serious bodily injury will occur at a place of public accommodation shall be imprisoned not more than five years or fined not more than $5,000.00, or both.”

The bill also defines “a place of public accommodation” as a school or other public meeting place. Elsewhere in the bill it expands ‘person’ to “a group of persons.” 

The DCF employee hired to monitor threats to state workers after the 2015 murder of DCF worker Lara Sobel outside a Washington County court room offered written testimony that the bill is needed to protect workers dealing face-to-face with violent, troubled people. 

“I was sorry to hear about the number of threats received by members of this committee, references to your colleagues’ receiving threats and the threats spoken to last week by the Secretary of State to his office and other elected and election officials,” Shannon Morton said. “The impact that these can have on the threatened party and those that care about them is something we within the Family Services Division unfortunately know very well. Since we began diligently tracking threats and other staff safety incidents in 2015, we average about 110 reported incidents per year. These vary from direct in person threats, third party threats, threats on social media, verbal assaults, physical assaults and others.”

Harrison Stark of the American Civil Liberties Union of VT agreed the law must protect elected officials: “These threats are more than just attempts to threaten or intimidate particular individuals. They really are attempts to undermine our democracy, to erode the machinery of self-government and to force particular people essentially out of public life.” 

But Stark said current law already covers these offenses – so S265 isn’t needed. 

Defender General Matt Valerio agreed: “The activity that is currently set forth in this bill is already covered by a number of criminal statutes, not the least of which is simple assault, simple assault by physical menace, disorderly conduct, reckless endangerment, and aggravated assault.”

Stark also expressed concern about the threat to political expression. “In our view that language is both superfluous and unnecessary,” he said. “It also risks potentially chilling protected expression and certain forms of political hyperbole.”

Stark doesn’t cite this example, but elsewhere supporters of school board ‘protection’ point to supposed threats made by an angry mom who told a school board during a meeting she would ‘take them out.’ Yet supporters say it was a promise to take political action.

A revised draft of S265 is scheduled for Senate Judiciary review Friday morning at 9:45. 

48 replies »

  1. Ahhh….yet more CONTROLLING of the lowly masses. And what precisely will be considered a “threat”? Name calling? A “racist” remark?

    It is TERRIFYING that this is happening in VT because these dictators want to dominate & control without interference from the peasants.

    • Is a school board member calling Parents “domestic terrorists” punishable?
      A public official who does this should be removed from there duties by police.
      No need to threaten them for their obnoxious behavior. thanks

  2. So the school board members of Colchester who wantonly IGNORED the wishes of ALL the people who pay for the school’s funding & attended a school board “public meeting” wanted the now-defunct, Marxist BLM flag removed from display at every school in town…..will likely now be able to be ARRESTED & IMPRISONED???

    For what exactly??? For calling the COLCHESTER VT SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS “MARXISTS”???

    They are: MARXISTS!!! And the jokes on them as they continue to fly the flag of a non-existent organization that effectively stole monetary donations & purchased private homes for its “founders” in lily white, upscale neighborhoods!

    Colchester School Board: You are not only Marxists, but buffoons too!

    Come and git me, fools!

  3. This state legislature is turning into a large MANURE PIT as well as a number of citys within the state like Burlington, Montpelier to name a few

    • ‘They’ want everything to fail with the exception of the lackeys i.e. bureaucrats. Then whoever survives will be rounded up to live in a ‘smart city’ like Burlington. ‘They’ will then be free to pursue their own ‘proclivities’; the world according to Baal.

    • You forgot Essex, they harassed one minor who dared to tell the truth about the district shaming white children and then pay hush money to them to buy the kids silence. Paid for by the courtesy of the Essex taxpayers.

  4. Homeschool and/or private education is the only answer. Unfortunately, even private schools get federal dollars and are then told what to do…it’s going to take bold moves on the part of parents and concerned citizens. As a former homeschool teacher/music educator, I suggest they start forming ‘pods’ and hire souls like myself kathitarrant.com

    • Kathi, I agree entirely. Unfortunately, the “parents and concerned citizens” are still stuck with the exorbitant property/education yearly payments. And Liberal/Progressive Vermont State and school boards will never relinquish that highway robbery! Kathi, does your provider service have any kind of Organization or Association?

  5. This is a work up to eliminate displays and expressions of protest and opposition to govt. policies, completely against our 1st amendment rights…This is the same malarkey that the school boards tried to lay off on the DOJ “any person in reasonable apprehension that death or serious bodily injury”…If this comes into effect, there will be plenty of school board officials feeling “Threatened”….There are already laws on the books as it pertains to violence and bodily harm…This is an attempt to redefine it to quieten opposition and in my opinion unconstitutional and if passed should be challenged all the way to the supreme court.

    • Oh, now THAT is OK! They are the “rulers” of this once free country. Please refer to them from now on as “dear leaders”……

    • Here! Here! Socialist government expansionists. More laws from of The Office of .The Office of Redundant Redundancy.

  6. Another bill by government expansionist Democrats afraid of angry parents who just do not agree with idyllic, common senseless, socialism. Defender General Matt Valerio agreed: “The activity that is currently set forth in this bill is already covered by a number of criminal statutes, not the least of which is simple assault, simple assault by physical menace, disorderly conduct, reckless endangerment, and aggravated assault.”

    • Defender General Matt Valerio also said the same thing in regards to S30, which started out as a bill to keep firearms out of medical facilities. The DG stated that what was being proposed could already be handled by current trespassing statutes. By the way, a new way more consequential version of that bill was voted out of the Senate Judiciary today, and I believe that because it was a given that in that this overwhelmingly left leaning committee it would in deed pass, it was already on the docket for the full Senate today to act on it.

  7. Such penalties for valid threats could be considered reasonable in reasonable times. However, the current snowflake, cancel-culture definition of a “threat” opens up a big Pandora’s box and another big Montpelier camel’s nose under the tent. We live in the age where the left embraces the concept of the “microaggression” where any expression, be it verbal, facial, finger pointing etc that causes someone else to be offended and stressed is considered the equivalent of a physical attack and justifies such a response in turn. I was raised with the opposite notion of “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”. Any public officials, elected or otherwise, who cannot stand a bit of public scrutiny should retire to the safety of their mother’s basements. That being said, when a leftist mob encamps on or nearby an elected official’s private space and does make legitimate, legally-recognized threats, such as has been the case with Burlington’s Mayor and members of the City Council, these actions should be dealt with seriously.
    The ideological bias has got to stop, and this proposal has got ideological bias and subjectivity written all over it.

  8. Unsurprising legislation from legislators that seek to ensconce themselves as permanent guardians of socialism in Vermont. Not unlike Pelosi’s reaction and actions toward protesters of the January 6th Freedom event in DC. Sears has changed his tone greatly in recent years, becoming lost in the cacophony of liberal voices demanding “their way”.
    The Vermont Constitution has quite a bit to guide us as to why this bill- or any others similar
    violates the Rights of the Inhabitants of The State of Vermont.
    Chapter 1 Articles 4, 6, 7, 13,14,18 and 20 all have applicable verbiage- and that if these fearful legislators adhered to their Oaths of Office- would understand the unlawful principal they extoll as necessary.
    With laws currently on the books to deal with any real threats that may occur, none need be added.
    Every legislator will do or say something that a constituent will disagree with, that’s part of governance. To fear the inevitable disagreement that will arise makes me question the integrity of the representative, be it School Board Member or Governor and all in between.
    Just because one is offended by the words of a constituent is no reason to punish the constituent in a representative democracy such as we have.

  9. Correction Frank, “a representative democracy such as we are supposed have.” and there in lies the rub, these pinheads don’t want to represent us, we’re no better than mouth breathing Neanderthals, they will make sure the right path is forced upon, excuse me, shown to us.

      • Seriously sounds like a One Way Street. What about the people being protected from VT State Officials, and School Boards ? Being categorized as a Domestic Terrorist is quite an attack. We know of one person that lost their job because of the Essex/Westford School District. (Maybe there is more that I am unaware of). WELL, I have an idea —> nothing should be proposed on a state level or Educational level that has any ideas or language the U.S. Constitution can’t support. (example: White people are white privileged and Black people are oppressed. We can categorize people on the basis of group identity, because our society is basically systemic racist. –> NOPE the US Constitution doesn’t support that)

  10. What is the defination of “a threat that places any person in reasonable apprehension that death or serious bodily injury will occur” Another “well “that’s open to legal interpitation” Just what is “reasonable” who defines this??? There are a lot of definintions as to what is “reasonable”. We’ll tell you which definition we’ll chose when it happens. on another note,there are so many laws already that these guys don’t even know when there making laws already made??? How about legislature take a couple years off so they can read the laws we already have!!

      • The single word “reasonable” has put a lot of money into the pockets of attorneys over the years…

  11. Where are these same folks who do and say NOTHING when the states attorney general’s office releases perpetrators of violence like the guy in Burlington this week. Who, using a gun, he should have never had possession of in the first place, committed an act of violence. He was released the very same day. NO to any of these useless laws that do zero since they are only selectively enforced!!

  12. Dick McCormack and I have had words before. I guess this bill is so next time he can attempt to have me arrested. And I say attempt because obviously I didn’t threaten him what so ever. But I did tell him what I really thought of him, using words I probably can’t say here. I no longer feel any responsibility to to be nice or polite to people trying to take away my rights and hurt me!

  13. Dick McCormack and Alison Clarkson, two of my state senators from Windsor County are proud cheerleaders of defunding the police and emptying the prisons. This is an essential part of the platform of the Democratic Party. As sponsors of this bill, S265, who do they think is going to enforce this bill if it becomes law, from arresting, to prosecuting, to sentencing, to jail time? The Vermont state prison system in near collapse, there are huge shortages of police and correctional officers and those that remain on the job are demoralized in large part due to the policies promoted by these Senators sponsoring this bill.

  14. But it’s ok for King Scott and Jim Condom whoops I mean Condos to call those of us who went to D.C, on Jan 6th as “Domestic Terrorists”: I felt threatened by that statement!!!

  15. Ah……Dick McCormack…..who relocated to VT from NYC in order to bring the crackhead, violent, gangsta, NYC world HERE!

    That guy needs to be in prison, forget about emptying them. He is an anti-American, Communist, loud-mouthed, arrogant, jerk.

    By the way McCormack: You come get me too for exercising my innate, inherent right to free speech, that you can do NOTHING about it, pal. You are a 1st rate GOON!!! And you & your comrades will NEVER get away with this.

  16. And real criminals get a wrist slap, suspended sentence, and are released OOR! Have these people completely lost every shred of common sense? (if they had any)

  17. Of course! These special people deserve extraordinary protections as they carry out their genocide of the American patriot.

  18. Unfortunately, some people fear a “reasonable apprehension” of death or great bodily injury by simply hearing someone with an opinion that differs from their own. We might have to go by existing law on this one to help ensure equity in future criminal prosecutions.

  19. good grief,….In an attempt to keep up with the rest of the “woke” community, our legislators submit a bill that is already covered by laws we have on the books.

  20. Google me This Baruth & Sears: 1798, President Adams, Sedition Acts, “his rotundity”, Matthew Lyon, Vermont Congressman, pardoned by Jefferson, Fines refunded….

    There is an underlying rationale for this offense, it results in a felony which results in the confiscation of the person’s 2nd Amendment Rights and all firearms. Really all Baruth cares about is making Vermont on big “Rural Native Vermonter Free Zone”.

    Shall I be jailed for calling Sen. Phildo Baruth an urban elitist tyrant and seditious liar??? He knows how to reach me.

    • Hi Bill, Love it ! I call him Baby Ruth, you know, like the one floating in the pool in Caddy Shack, “It’s no big deal, its’ just a Baby Ruth !” because he’s a piece of crap. He should do real Vermonters a favor, and move back to Lockport, NY

  21. I support Essex school board Cady’s opinion and she should disclose that her statements do not reflect the opinion of the board. But are the other board members getting paranoid? When that happens, they can no longer do their job because of the perceived mental illness that every person that strongly opposes them is a threat. You could probably find more of an explanation in the DSM5. The Vermont legislature is trying to pass S265 to imprison people or body of people to 5 years in prison if a board member perceives a threat to their well-being. If that’s not what happened in the German Parliament in 1933 that gave Hitler total control over dissidents, I’ll eat my hat! Chittenden county and Vermont’s largest employer for years was IBM. Mr. Watson CEO of IBM flourished during the Nazi campaign across Europe. IBM had service offices in all the death camps in Germany documented in Edwin Black’s book on the subject. The tabulating machines categorized each and every Jew and undesirable. It was IBM that allowed Hitler to find every Jew in Europe so their livelihoods and wealth could be taken from them. Those IBM punch card numbers were tattooed into the skin of every age child, parent and elder. Medical advancements were numerous due to the German doctors experimenting and mutilating Jews, especially childhood twins to determine the value of genetics. SO forgive me if I don’t cry over critical race theory or slavery. Nothing in this country of America except for the Indians have ever come close to the effecient, systematic extermination of a race of people like that of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis. Substitute Facebook and Twitter for IBM and substitute Antifa ans BLM for the German youth Brown Shirts and their use of cancel culture and you are on the verge of another holocaust.

  22. This is Marxism in Action folks! There are laws on the books for criminal behavior and actions for anyone. To have laws pitted against your political opposition is Marxism. It is pitted against Free Speech which is the First Amendment. Was the Law enforced for BLM and Antifa Rioters, who burned, smashed, pillaged properties and even murdered people? What happened to them? NOTHING. WHY? Because they work for the Marxists. These Marxists sitting in Vermont were not elected, they were “selected”. The Plan from the beginning was to invade Vermont because people are complacent here. It was the perfect area to expand and grow their Tyranny. This will All End When WE THE PEOPLE simply DO NOT COMPLY WITH THE LIE.

    Liberty is from God not man.

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