BENNINGTON — State Rep. Chris Bates, D-Bennington, issued a statement Friday in reaction to the release of information "involving certain indiscretions in my past, dating back, in some instances, 40 years."
Bates, who was elected in November to a Bennington 2-1 House seat, said criminal charges he faced in Illinois involved incidents during his late teens and 20s and "altercations that led to misdemeanor charges of assault."
Approximately 10 to 15 years ago, he said, "I accepted responsibility for and admitted to DUI charges arising from my prior struggles with alcohol use."
The freshman lawmaker said he released the written statement after learning that "certain persons, in order, it seems, to advance their own personal interests, have published highly personal information about me ."
He and other local lawmakers said they had heard rumors about Bates having faced criminal charges, including that he might soon be arrested and extradited to Illinois because of some unresolved legal issues. Bates denied Friday that he faced arrest or extradition.
Bates, who is being advised by attorney Allan Sullivan, of Dorset, declined to name those he believes are spreading the information about his past record. But at least one person — Kevin Hoyt, who ran against Bates as a Republican in the November election — posted comments about the lawmaker Friday on his Facebook page.
Hoyt said in part: "I hope the public is as upset as I am. WE JUST ELECTED A FUGATIVE (sic) into the Vt State house!!! First time in history and it had to be liberal Vermont. WRITE LETTERS, ASK QUESTIONS, DEMAND accountability or it will only get worse."
In comments below his post, Hoyt names Bates as the alleged fugitive Vermont lawmaker.
He also goes on at length in a video on his Facebook site about what he termed biased treatment of him as a conservative Republican and anti-gun control advocate, including comparing his experience to that of Bates.
Hoyt stated that "no one will arrest him [Bates] because he is a Democrat politician and a lot of corrupt friends already in office."
Hoyt had been charged in April with felony impeding of an officer and possessing a big game animal — a deer — taken out of season, after an incident in February at his home involving Fish and Wildlife Department Warden Travis Buttle.
Those charges were dismissed Friday by the State's Attorney's Office.
The altercation with Buttle concerned a deer head and antlers Hoyt had posted on Facebook, prompting the officer to investigate whether that involved a deer taken illegally.
Also on his page, Hoyt claimed he was assaulted when Tuttle confiscated the deer head and said he unsuccessfully sought charges against Buttle through the State's Attorney's Office.
With his charges now dropped, Hoyt claimed in posts Friday that he has been a victim of bias by several officials because of his political beliefs.
Hoyt said he received information about Bates' record in Illinois as part of discovery materials sent to him by the prosecution, which included information on people interviewed in Hoyt's case.
Moved here in 2012
In his statement, Bates, 59, said that since moving to Vermont in 2012, he has "come to know this to be a place of great compassion and forgiveness — a place for second chances and forgiveness for those who have, like I, slipped in our past lives."
He said he has "addressed head-on the challenges I experienced with alcohol use while living in Illinois ."
Bates said he also wants to "dispel rumors that have been today relayed to me that I might be arrested as to one of these old charges. I resolved each and every one of them with the courts when they occurred. Still, I have learned in the last week that I did not entirely satisfy all of the terms and conditions attending to the resolution of one of these Illinois incidents."
After learning that, Bates said, he retained counsel to satisfy the court in McHenry County, Illinois, that "all my post-resolution conditions and terms are met ."
He said that will involve payment of fines and "the provision of certain required certifications," adding, "I am confident that issue will all be cleared up in the next week or so."
Bates said he also has contacted Vermont law enforcement officials, and "they are fully aware of my circumstances. I have been expressly assured that there are no plans by authorities here to initiate any court or law enforcement action relating to the satisfaction of these post-resolution terms and conditions."
He said he also wants "to dispel another rumor — I fully intend to continue to represent the people of Bennington in the House of Representatives.."
Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont, including the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal. Twitter: @BB_therrien