Thursday December 6, 2012

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- A man arrested nearly four years ago after police said he pointed a gun at them pleaded guilty to two felony charges Tuesday despite having been granted the opportunity for a new trial by the Vermont Supreme Court.

Paul Bourn, 33, of Bennington, was sentenced to serve between four and 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to threatening two Bennington police officers with an unloaded muzzleloader after they received a call from a homeowner that he was drunk and disorderly in 2009. Bourn was given credit for time served since March 21, 2009.

Bourn originally pleaded not guilty in 2009 to two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, unlawful trespassing, resisting arrest, aggravated assault on a police officer, and impeding a police officer.

Bourn then entered an agreement to plead guilty to some of those charges in exchange for the state not arguing for him to serve more than eight years in prison. But Bourn was allowed to retract his plea on the grounds he did not admit to the level of intent needed to fit the charges.

At a later trial Bourn was convicted by a jury on the two aggravated assault with a deadly weapon counts, but acquitted on the others. Following the verdict announcement, Bourn shouted at the jury and was given 60 days in prison for the outburst.


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According to the Vermont Supreme Court, Bourn was suffering a "diminished mental capacity" during the incident with the muzzleloader which raised the question of whether or not Bourn intended to threaten police, an element needed for the crime to have been committed. Bourn had appealed the two convictions on the grounds that the jury was not told it could acquit him based on his diminished mental capacity at the time of the incident.

The Vermont Supreme Court decision said that Bourn had been drinking at the home with a friend and refused to leave when asked. He also made statements about being deployed overseas shortly, despite not being or ever having been a member of the military.

When police arrived to arrest Bourn, according to the decision, he went into a room and came out with a muzzleloader. The court noted the gun lacked a primer cap, making it unable to fire, but police were unaware of this. Police drew their weapons and Bourn raised the gun in an arcing motion, never pointing it directly at the officers, according to the court finding. Bourn was ultimately subdued with batons and pepper spray

According to the Vermont Supreme Court, the state did not have to prove intent on the lower level crimes, but needed it for the aggravated assaults.