BENNINGTON — A former Manchester police officer accused in several instances of anger-driven assaults involving minor victims between 2018 and 2020 pleaded guilty on three out of seven counts on Thursday in Bennington Superior Court.
Christopher Mason pled guilty to misdemeanor charges including cruelty to a child for hitting the minor with a ladle because the victim didn’t wash it well enough, dragging a minor victim off of a couch because they napped too long, and swiping items off a counter, including a heavy ceramic bowl, toward minor children because he was feeling angry.
Mason, 44, was sentenced to one to two years, all suspended, and two years of probation with several conditions, including no alcohol, no contact with any of the victims, no firearms, and that he completes the process of permanently de-certifying himself as a police officer.
Mason stood in front of Judge John Valente, who read Mason his rights before allowing the three guilty pleas to be entered into the official record. Mason pleaded guilty to three out of seven misdemeanor charges from incidents between 2018 and 2020. They included simple assault, reckless endangerment, and cruelty to a child.
Part of the plea deal allowed four additional charges to be dismissed, including two additional charges of cruelty to a child and two domestic assault charges. One of the charges Mason pleaded to was amended from a domestic assault to a simple assault as part of the negotiation with the state.
“While I do believe that everything happens for a reason, I’ve never been able to explain to them (the victims) why you thought you were above the law,” the mother of the victims said in a statement in open court just before Mason’s sentence was handed down.
“Today is the day that we have been waiting for. All this time dealing with your games and attempts at twisting the truth and trying to derail my credibility in a desperate attempt to save your own back. At what cost? After so many challenging days where I was made to feel like I was losing my mind, today, I confirmed that I was not crazy. I’m OK. I have persevered, teaching (the victims) to stand up for what is right.”
“It’s time for us all to move forward,” the mother said. “I’ve been dreaming of a day when (the victims) have someone they can trust, look up to, and are proud of, someone they will not fear, who does not embarrass them with selfish and poor decisions. Someone they will not doubt loves them back and has their back. And help them heal.”
“They have been robbed of many of these ideals and security and happiness during their precious childhood years. But you have not robbed our hope. I hope that you have gained clarity from this experience over the last several years, that you feel remorseful, and that you recognize and soak up all the opportunities you can to learn, grow, and be better. They deserve it.”
When asked by Valente if he had anything to say, Mason declined. Soon after, Valente accepted the plea deal and sentenced Mason to one to three years, all suspended, with a two-year probation and strict conditions, including Mason’s participation and completion of a domestic abuse treatment program.
Mason was originally facing a combined maximum of 10 years behind bars if found guilty on all charges. If he completes his probation successfully, he will be free in two years, including freedom from the conditions approved by the court. Mason will never again be allowed to be a police officer in Vermont.
Mason, a corporal with the Manchester Police Department, resigned in 2020. Manchester Town Manager John O’Keefe, at the time of the charges, told the Manchester Journal that Mason resigned after he was charged by the Dover Police Department, which investigated at the town’s request after Mason was served with a restraining order. O’Keefe said Mason was immediately put on paid leave when the investigation was launched and was not in uniform or on duty during the investigation.
“We gained knowledge about the restraining order that was filed,” O’Keefe said at the time. “Because of the conflict, we assigned that out externally, and that’s where the charges came from.”
Detective Rebecca Morris of the Dover Police Department handled the delicate investigation into the allegations. During that investigation, Morris met with the accuser, who said Mason had been exhibiting rage and violence for years. She related several occurrences over the past 10 years, including a time about a decade ago when he blocked her car with his car to prevent her from leaving. Another time, she alleged, he put a handcuff on her wrist when she said she was going to leave, and then chased her into the bathroom and put his forearm on her neck, preventing her from breathing. She said he called her profane names, spat in her face, and told her she had nowhere to go.
She said Mason often broke things, punched walls, and kicked in doors.
She also related multiple incidents in which she accused Mason of violence against several children, including whipping a child with a wet dish cloth that left welts, hitting a child with a ladle on the back, leaving a welt and bruise, grabbing them by their arms, necks and, one time, kicking and kneeing a kid in the rear. There are also allegations of name-calling, shaming, and intimidation. Details given by children interviewed by Morris matched the various accounts given.
Mason was arrested at the Manchester Police Station on Oct. 8, 2020. Manchester Police Chief Patrick Owens, with Mason’s consent, removed two handguns and two rifles from Mason’s home, including a Taurus handgun, an LCP handgun, an AR semiautomatic rifle, and a 9mm carbine rifle.
At the time of his arrest, Mason apologized to “my colleagues for what happened yesterday. You have shown me an uncanny amount of support. Be safe out there. Much love.”
Mason began his career with the Rutland County Sheriff’s Department in 2005 and spent time with the Woodstock Police Department and Windsor County Sheriff’s Department before joining the MPD. With the Manchester Police Department, he was a field training officer, an ALICE trainer teaching students and adults how to deal with an active shooter situation. He led the department’s National Night Out event.
“I’m satisfied with Christopher acknowledging and will actually get help for (the victim’s) sake,” the children’s mother told the Banner as she departed the courtroom. After signing court documents in preparation for his parole, Mason was free to leave. His probation starts immediately.
Anyone dealing with domestic violence can receive help. Call Project Against Violent Encounters hotline: 802-442-2111.