Handling of trooper case questioned

Posted

RUTLAND — One Vermont state trooper has left his job, three others — including a high ranking officer — have been placed on paid leave, and an internal affairs investigation is underway into questions of how some State Police members handled a case involving a rookie trooper, officials said.

Vermont State Police conducted a separate criminal investigation into a report of suspicion of driving while under the influence by off-duty State Trooper Spencer Foucher of the Rutland barracks during the early morning hours of Oct. 28 in Bennington, officials said.

Bennington County State's Attorney Erica Marthage said Tuesday afternoon that based on the report provided by state police her office does not plan to file any criminal charge in the DUI case.

"I reviewed the criminal case for potential charges and there is not going to be a charge out of my office," Marthage said. She said she believed there was a lack of sufficient evidence, including no alcohol breath test for the incident outside the Cumberland Farms in Bennington.

Marthage said she asked for follow-up investigation, including information from the bar where Foucher was earlier, but that report did not generate enough evidence to proceed with a case.

Foucher, who was hired Jan. 16, resigned effective Oct. 29, State Police spokesman Adam Silverman said.

Foucher, who went to high school in Bennington, did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

State Troopers Thomas Stange and Benjamin Irwin, both assigned to the Shaftsbury barracks, were placed on paid administrative leave the same day Foucher resigned, Silverman confirmed. According to officials, Stange and Irwin had responded to the Cumberland Farms for an unrelated reason, and were told by a store clerk about a man, later identified as Foucher, being parked outside for an extended time.

Foucher was not charged, officials said.

Stange has been a state trooper since July 16, 2012, while Irwin was hired July 10, 2017.

State Police Lt. Michael Studin, the station commander in Rutland for the past two years, also was relieved of duty Oct. 29 and put on paid administrative leave as part of the case, Silverman said.

When state troopers are placed on administrative leave, the department takes their police cruiser, firearms, badge, credentials, computer and other department property so they are unable to perform any law enforcement work.

Silverman confirmed the department's internal affairs office is conducting an investigation on the three troopers on leave. Vermont State Police have a special law that allows internal affairs to be considered confidential.

"The Vermont State Police take situations like this seriously and respond swiftly," said Silverman in a statement on behalf of the department.

"As soon as Senior Command Staff learned of the situation, they immediately took action with respect to the members involved. Because Vermont law is clear that internal investigations are not matters of public record, the Vermont State Police is unable to say anything further at this time," the statement said.

State Police Col. Matthew Birmingham declined comment beyond the department issued statement. Officials would not say how the Senior Command Staff had learned of the episode.

Mike O'Neil, executive director of the Vermont Troopers Association, declined comment noting the group "does not comment on representation of members that are subject to internal affairs investigations."

Studin, who as a lieutenant is not part of the troopers union, could not be reached for comment. A message was left on his cell phone.

The separate criminal investigation focused only on Foucher, Silverman said on Monday afternoon.

Lt. Jeff Danowski, who is station commander of the New Haven barracks, has been assigned to oversee the Rutland County barracks while Studin is on paid leave. Sgt. Matthew Daley of the New Haven barracks has been appointed to fill Danowski's regular post.

It was unclear how long the temporary assignments for Danowski and Daley would last.

The Vermont Department of Public Safety, which oversees the state police, initially denied a public records request seeking information about the four troopers. After a request for reconsideration, the state police opted to provide some material.

Studin joined the Vermont State Police on July 14, 2003. He later became a senior trooper and was promoted to patrol sergeant at the Rockingham barracks on March 24, 2013. He was promoted to lieutenant and named station commander in Rutland County on Sept. 4, 2016.

He also serves on the Stafford Technical Center's Public Safety/Criminal Justice Advisory Committee in Rutland.

By coincidence, Studin's administrative leave comes exactly 10 years to the day from another high profile case involving him.

Studin made a splash Oct. 29, 2008 when he drove a super-charged unmarked state police cruiser at 133 miles per hour in a 65 mph zone on I-91 in Rockingham and passed then-Public Safety Commissioner Thomas Tremblay and his wife in their private vehicle.

Instead of charging Studin in criminal court, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell's office issued Studin a civil speeding ticket. Studin was eventually assessed $1,036 in fine and fees, records show. The speed was determined by the in-cruiser video for the 2008 Dodge Charger normally reserved for the Southern Traffic Safety Unit.

Studin, who was assigned to the Southern Vermont Drug Task Force at the time, was transferred back into the uniform division on Jan. 4, 2009 and faced other internal discipline, the department and union members said at the time.

A second trooper, who was assigned to the traffic safety unit, also was transferred back to the Rockingham barracks by then-State Police Director James Baker.


TALK TO US

If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.



Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions