Rowdy neighbor triggers action on new disorderly conduct charge
John Pascarlla of Connecticut owns a vacation home in Topsham, next door to a neighbor who he says screams obscenities and yells at neighbors when they go outside.
He blares his horn, yells obscenities at his neighbors five days a week and puts up offensive yard signs about them, and the law can't stop him. Topsham neighbors Wednesday told lawmakers they are fed up with their neighbor "Jack's" behavior and need a new law to stop him.
"Get out of Vermont or you will die!" legislators heard Jack yell Wednesday in a recording played by one of three neighbors who testified.
Jack has been charged with disorderly conduct, police said, but he either pays a fine or serves a short sentence then continues to blare his horn and yell.
A bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee would create the new crime of aggravated disorderly conduct, with stiffer penalties than ordinary disorderly conduct. Sens. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, Jane Kitchel, D-Caledonia, and Dick Sears, D-Bennington, are the sponsors of H.195.
The bill would both increase the penalty for repeat disorderly conduct and create the new offense with stiffer penalties of up to 180 days imprisonment and a fine of not more than $2,000.
State's attorneys support the bill, said Bram Kranichfeld, director of the Department of State's Attorneys and Sheriffs. This is a category of behavior - something more than disorderly conduct but not quite stalking or aggravated assault - that does not fit into existing statutes, he said.
The Defender General's Office, however, is concerned the bill is too far-reaching and would swamp the system with more low-level offenses. Bob Sheil, a juvenile defender in the Defender General's Office, said it would lead to higher caseloads and could prompt a request for additional resources.
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