BENNINGTON — A suspended veteran Vermont State Police trooper is expected to go on trial in May in Bennington County Superior Court for a charge of simple assault on an unruly, intoxicated prisoner from Shaftsbury two years ago.
Robert Zink, 41, of Arlington has denied any wrongdoing while making the arrest on Feb. 23, 2021, according to defense lawyer David Sleigh of St. Johnsbury.
Zink, who was a 13-year police veteran at the time, was one of the arresting officers for Christopher W. Campbell, then-42, of Tinkham Road, after a truck crash near his home, records show. Zink is alleged to have struck Campbell several times while he attempted to grab a Taser from another officer during a struggle.
Sleigh said Campbell was later convicted in the criminal case. Sleigh said court records show Campbell paid $1,170 in court costs and fees after pleading guilty to driving while under the influence. He said Campbell also pleaded no contest to resisting arrest, and that case was sent to a local reparative justice board.
Police said Campbell had an alcohol level of 0.14 percent, nearly twice the 0.08 level when adult drivers are presumed under the influence by Vermont law.
Zink’s jury trial is planned for two days — May 23 and 24 — with Judge Kerry Ann McDonald-Cady presiding.
A pretrial hearing is set for April 27, with the jury being picked May 2, court records show.
State police suspended Zink with pay after the incident. Following an internal investigation, he was charged by then-Attorney General T.J. Donovan with simple assault on Campbell. Zink denied the misdemeanor count and was shifted by state police to unpaid leave, where he remains.
Campbell filed a $25 million civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Burlington in January 2022, claiming excessive force by three state troopers who responded to his truck crash. He is seeking $5 million for each of his suit’s five claims, the lawsuit said.
Zink and now former Vermont State Police Troopers Jeremy Sullivan and David Pfindel, who were all assigned to the Shaftsbury barracks at the time, the Vermont State Police and an unknown group of John Does and Jane Does are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
Campbell’s civil case is on hold until the misdemeanor case against Zink is resolved, but federal Judge William K. Sessions III has dismissed Vermont State Police as a defendant.
Pfindel resigned in September 2021 after allegations that three state troopers had some involvement in producing an unknown number of counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards, officials said. They said the criminal case was turned over to the FBI, but nothing was ever done to the three former troopers.
Sullivan also has resigned for unrelated reasons.
Campbell is claiming excessive force, denial of timely medical care, failure to intervene, negligence and assault and battery, his 10-page lawsuit states.
Bennington County Deputy State’s Attorney Robert Plunkett charged Campbell the day after his arrest with eight criminal counts — aggravated assault on state police, unlawful restraint, impeding police by trying to take a Taser away from another state trooper, driving while intoxicated, careless and negligent driving, and three counts of simple assault on police — a protected professional performing a lawful duty.
Zink said the crash investigation revealed Campbell was driving a silver 2012 Toyota Tundra truck when it slide off the southbound shoulder of Tinkham Road and collided with several mailboxes. Trooper Sullivan stated the truck eventually drove back onto the road, turned into the driveway on Tinkham Road, and collided with a tree and several garbage cans before becoming stuck a second time.
Sleigh said a review of the investigation, including audio and video, shows Campbell was “violent, resisting, noncooperating and intoxicated” for three hours at the scene, at the hospital and at the state police barracks.
Sleigh said a second state trooper can be heard during the struggle at the scene yelling to Campbell to “let go of my Taser, let go of my Taser” just seconds before the punches in question are thrown.
The entangled Campbell, Zink and Sullivan went sliding about 50 feet down a steep, icy driveway after handcuffing the defendant and preparing to move him to a police cruiser, records show.
State police hired Zink in 2008 and assigned him as a road trooper at the Shaftsbury barracks after his graduation from the Vermont Police Academy. He became a detective trooper with the Narcotics Investigation Unit in 2012, then returned as a senior trooper at the Shaftsbury barracks in 2013.
He was assigned as a detective trooper in Shaftsbury in 2014, then promoted to sergeant/patrol commander two years later. In August 2019, he was assigned to the Rutland barracks, and he was demoted back to trooper for undisclosed reasons, state police said. He transferred back to the Shaftsbury barracks in December 2020.