Crime and Justice

Sarah George and state police disagree over whether to charge Shelburne police officer

Sarah George
Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George said she believes Cpl. Jon Marcoux used excessive force in a Jan. 23 incident. Vermont State Police disagree. File photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

The Vermont State Police has rebuffed Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George’s request that it charge a Shelburne police officer with simple assault. 

The Shelburne Police Department is investigating whether its public information officer, Cpl. Jon Marcoux, used excessive force while responding to a reported car theft on Jan. 23 and has placed him on administrative leave, according to the police chief.

A state police detective investigated the incident at George’s request but did not find probable cause to support a criminal charge, Vermont State Police spokesperson Adam Silverman said this week.

George’s office reviewed the findings and determined that there was probable cause to charge Marcoux with simple assault. George asked the state police to issue a citation to the Shelburne officer, but it declined, as first reported by the Shelburne News.

“If an investigator does not believe this standard has been met, it is unethical and inappropriate for the police officer to swear to an affidavit he or she believes is untrue,” Silverman wrote in an email to VTDigger.

Silverman said that the investigation’s results were “reviewed by multiple layers of supervisors” within the state police and Department of Public Safety, who agreed there wasn’t probable cause to charge Marcoux.

But the county’s top prosecutor saw it differently.

“Our review found that he did use excessive force,” George confirmed in an interview Wednesday. 

Details of the Jan. 23 incident have not been made public. State police, Shelburne police and George declined requests for records associated with the case, stating that it remains under investigation.

George, who said she is still exploring her options, noted that the results of the internal police investigation could influence her decision — “if we felt like sufficient steps were taken to address the behavior through the department or through the (Vermont Criminal Justice) Council.”

She also suggested that she could use a grand jury to determine whether to bring charges. “I’ve never done that before,” she said, adding that “they’re incredibly resource intensive.”

The state police didn’t present any formal findings but passed the case to her office “as a sort of review,” she said.  

George said she hasn’t encountered this kind of difference of opinion on a use-of-force case since she’s been in office. Of the roughly five to eight use-of-force cases her office has reviewed during her tenure, “the finding has always been that the use of force was reasonable,” George said.

George issued a Giglio letter on Aug. 18, which defense lawyers in future cases involving Marcoux would receive. It notes that the state’s attorney concluded he used excessive force and should be charged with simple assault.

George noted the letter does not identify Marcoux as an unreliable witness. “We don’t have any reason to believe he’s not a credible witness going forward,” she said. 

Attempts to reach Marcoux by phone and email were not successful. 

Acting Police Chief Michael Thomas said he couldn’t comment, citing the ongoing internal investigation by Shelburne police. But he confirmed no charges have been brought against Marcoux, who has been employed by the department since 2017.

During the incident under review, Marcoux responded to a reported car theft in Shelburne. He later located the stolen car and pulled it over on Shelburne Road at around 3:30 a.m. on Jan. 23, when the alleged use-of-force incident occurred, the Shelburne News reported.

On Feb. 8, Thomas sent the police report and cruiser video to George with a request that she review the case “for potential criminal charges,” according to emails obtained through a public records request. 

George responded a day later to say Marcoux used “excessive force in this incident” and asked state police to “conduct a criminal investigation and make a determination about whether a citation is appropriate.”

On Feb. 11, the state police’s criminal investigation unit notified it that Det. Trooper Kipp Colburn out of the Rutland barracks would lead the investigation with assistance from Det. Trooper Adria Pickin.

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Auditi Guha

About Auditi

Auditi is Chittenden County editor at VTDigger. Originally from Calcutta, India, she graduated from Emerson College with an MA in journalism. She has worked as an editor and reporter for several newspapers, and in various beats. Most recently, she covered race and justice at Rewire.News, and higher education at the New Bedford Standard-Times. She previously worked at several Massachusetts newsrooms. She is a mentor for young reporters through the Report For America program, founded the Boston chapter of the South Asian Journalists Association, and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Email: [email protected]

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