by Guy Page
A Calais woman who police say pepper-sprayed three Vermont Liberty supporters and struck one of them on the State House Lawn May 15 was charged July 2 with three misdemeanors. Today, she was referred for court diversion.
Darien McElwain, 57, of Lower Curtis Pond Road was charged by the Washington County State’s Attorney with simple assault, careless and negligent operation of a vehicle, and disorderly conduct (fighting). The first two counts carry a fine of up to $1000 and a one-year prison sentence. The third count carries a fine of up to $500 and 60 days in jail.
Someone referred by the State’s Attorney’s office to court diversion “meets with a board of community volunteers and completes a contract designed to repair the harm done to the victim and the larger community, and address underlying factors in the individual’s life that contributed to the crime,” the Vermont Court Diversion Program website says. They may also pay a fine and be required to listen to the victim(s).
The 4:30 pm attack by McElwain on Karen Skau of Poultney and Shona Reiter of Stowe had its roots in an encounter three hours earlier on the State House steps, when a group of girls including McElwain’s 14-year-old daughter was playing loud music with racially offensive lyrics. According to the police investigation, the song was ‘Good Morning Tokyo.’ Lyrics provided by police in the court affidavit contain nine uses of the N-word, as well as other profanity.
Skau says she asked the girls why they were listening to disgusting music that used the N-word. According to police, the girls then informed McElwain they had been called the N-word. Both Skau and McElwain told police that McElwain drove up to the State House lawn and confronted Skau for the alleged name-calling. At that point their stories diverge. McElwain claims she was pursued by angry protesters and only struck Skau and used pepper spray in self-defense in her attempt to flee. Skau, Reiter and other onlookers said McElwain instigated the confrontation, refused to listen, approached the women, and then pepper-sprayed them both and Struck Skau with her hand and with a sign one of the girls had stolen earlier from the State House lawn.
The fact that charges were filed against McElwain, and no-one else, shows the police gave little credence to her version. Also, the affidavit says that a video shows McElwain striking the first visible blow, taking a sign from one of the kids, and then striking Skau with it as Skau backed up. Another video shows McElwain pepper-spraying Skau, Reiter and Skau’s friend Josh Curiale.