KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- An Arlington man charged with negligent driving is accused of calling a witness and making her feel intimidated.
Jason Hill, 28, pleaded not guilty Thursday in Vermont Superior Court to a felony count of obstruction of justice. He was released on the condition he have no contact with the woman he is accused of calling.
According to an affidavit by former Vermont State Trooper David Ferencik, on May 19 at 2:50 a.m. he and another trooper responded to a vehicle crash on North Road in Sunderland. It was reported that the driver was sobbing and asking the person who called 911 not to do so. Ferencik wrote that a car had gone off the road and hit a large tree stump being used as a sign post. The vehicle hit hard enough to deploy the airbags, but the driver was nowhere to be seen.
By checking the registration, police were led to Hill’s house where they spoke to his wife, who told them she and Hill had been in an argument and he left. He had been drinking alcohol since 2 p.m. as they had been at a wedding reception, per the affidavit. Ferencik said the caller had also suspected Hill of being drunk.
Hill showed up at the State Police barracks in Shaftsbury the following day. He admitting to drinking earlier in the day of the crash, but said he felt fine to drive and only crashed after falling asleep. He said he left the scene through the woods and found his way home.
According to another affidavit by Sgt. Trooper Jesse Robson, Hill pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of careless or negligent vehicle operation on Sept. 30. On Oct. 23, after being off for some time, Robson learned he had been contacted on Oct. 16 by the woman who reported Hill’s crash. She said Hill had called her, and was reluctant to speak to police further about it.
The woman did speak to Robson, and said Hill called her on Oct. 16 to ask her what she had told police about him being intoxicated. She told him and he became angrier. She said it seemed like he was choosing his words carefully to give her the impression he knew where she lived and how to contact her. She ended the conversation.
Robson wrote that the woman began crying during his interview and said she feared retribution from Hill or his friends.
Hill was arrested at his home. Troopers waited with him on his porch while his wife returned, as his children would have been left unattended otherwise. Robson wrote that Hill seemed upset over being arrested, and admitted to calling the woman, but said he was not aware that was prohibited. Court records indicate his original release conditions did not contain a "no contact" order. Robson wrote that Hill expressed "personal anger" towards him about how the investigations were conducted.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.