Wednesday May 8, 2013

The Banner has reported on a lot of big news in Bennington since the beginning of 2013.

* Former Mount Anthony Union High School science and math teacher Steven P. Davis made headlines across the state after posting videos and messages on the Internet Dec. 31 criticizing school officials, co-workers, and the teachers union shortly after surrendering an AR-15 Bushmaster rifle to police that morning. He was hospitalized following a mental health evaluation and later transferred to a Green Mountain Psychiatric Care Center in Morrisville, where he stayed until his release Jan. 22. A teacher whom many referred to as beloved, Davis' nine years of employment at MAUHS came to an end on Feb. 15 after he signed a severance agreement with the school district.

* January 16 marked the biggest drug raid in Vermont history, right here in Bennington and in surrounding towns. More than 100 law enforcement officers descended on Bennington and surrounding towns looking to nab 63 suspected drug dealers and a handful of purported gang members. A total of 48 suspects were arrested during that initial sweep, known officially as Operation County Strike. More arrests of those suspected of dealing prescription pills, heroin and crack cocaine followed.

* An investigation of Bennington businessman Thomas Lyons began shortly thereafter, on January 21, when police served search warrants at his home and car dealership seeking evidence as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into an alleged prostitution ring. Following a months-long investigation, Lyons accepted a plea deal on April 29, pleading guilty to four misdemeanor counts of prohibited acts, receiving a suspended sentence of 18 to 48 months.

* On February 20, James Beckwith was found dead at his South Londonderry home of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, the same day federal authorities filed a complaint alleging he embezzled $440,000 from Southern Vermont College while serving as acting president. The forfeiture complaint filed by the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont was later amended to include another $110,000 Beckwith embezzled from the Bennington college previously.

* On March 1, the family of a local 8-year-old autistic boy released an audio recording made by placing a recorder on the boy's backpack as he went to school at Bennington Elementary. The tape revealed that the third-grader was regularly secluded in a room at school, told to clean his urine off the floor, and referred to as a "dumbass kid with autism" by a paraprofessional. The Southern Vermont Supervisory Union's investigation is ongoing.

* And on Tuesday, Bennington Police along with FBI agents served search warrants on two spas in Bennington, Green Spa on Main Street and Cozy Spa on North Street, as part of a six-month investigation into human trafficking and prostitution. No arrests were made Tuesday, but are expected in the future. See related story on Page 1.

Agreed: There has been a lot of hard news surfacing in the small town of Bennington over a short time period.

Because I'm new to the Banner and Bennington I often hear phrases like "So you're the one who brought all this bad news to town." Not true!

Despite articles on "negative" news topics you may have read about here in The Banner recently, don't forget there's been a lot of "good" news to go around as well. There are days where the big news of the day is "positive," such as last Thursday's main story about a Manchester boy winning a state writing contest, last Friday's story about a job fair for veterans coming to town, or Saturday's fine profile of Sen. Patrick Leahy.

The Banner is a snapshot of what's going on in the community on any given day, and there are a lot of wonderful stories to tell out there.

There also happen to be some big news stories.

~Michelle Karas