By Guy Page
An Associated Press news story on the Friday, January 18 acquittal of former St. Albans police officer Mark Schwartz for simple assault was lacking in crucial details, Schwartz’s lawyer Robert Kaplan of Burlington concluded. So he’s taken the news service to task.
“As reported by AP (on WCAX and other websites), a jury cleared Schwartz of simple assault charges. Video of the February, 2019 incident can be seen on police body camera video, available on the Seven Days website.
“But the blow-by-blow details of how Schwartz subdued the suspect with a taser were sketchy in the news report. So a day after the AP story hit the news wire, Kaplan issued his own — and, he says, much more complete — account of the incident that landed the former cop on trial for unnecessary force in the tasing of a man on Main Street in St. Albans City. In a letter to AP, Kaplan wrote:
“This was a one day trial on Friday. The State did not have an expert witness. The defense called Steve Ijames. I have attached his CV and his report in this case. The Vermont Attorney General regularly relies on Mr. Ijames as their expert witness in use of force cases. Mr. Ijames has also done high level training for the Vermont State Police. He testified on behalf of Mark Schwartz and was clear and consistent that Mark Schwartz’s use of the taser was within the standards for police practices and was an appropriate choice in this arrest.
“If you had attended the trial you would have learned:
- Mark Schwartz is a military veteran who completed the Army’s Mountain Warfare School;
- Mark Schwartz was among the most highly trained officers at St. Albans PD;
- Mark Schwartz was the use of force instructor and taser instructor for St. Albans PD;
- Mark Schwartz was selected to be on the Franklin County SRT (SWAT) Team;
- In 2018, Mark Schwartz made 25% of all arrests for St. Albans PD;
- Mark Schwartz routinely worked multiple overtime shifts per week, in addition to SRT training, because St. Albans PD was badly understaffed;
- Vincent Ford was fleeing from Mark Schwartz and was not under Mark Schwartz’s control when the taser was deployed;
- Mark Schwartz’s use of the taser to arrest Vincent Ford was reviewed and cleared by St. Albans PD several times;
- Mark Schwartz was not disciplined or reprimanded by St. Albans PD for using his taser to apprehend Vincent Ford;
- Mark Schwartz resigned from policing due to burn-out from overwork and exhaustion;
- The VSP investigation did not include interviewing any witnesses;
- The Attorney General, and not Vermont State Police, made the decision to issue Mark Schwartz a citation for the crime of simple assault.
- Mark Schwartz remains certified as a law enforcement officer in Vermont and could return to policing if he chose to.
“In addition to these facts, an investigative reporter would have discovered:
- Vincent Ford has been arrested multiple times since this event and had faced charges including multiple assaults on first responders and is facing similar charges now
- On November 11, 2019, Mark Schwartz responded to a call and discovered that Nicholas Luciano had been repeatedly stabbed by his roommate and was near death. Mark Schwartz was the only St. Albans PD officer with combat casualty training. Mark Schwartz immediately used his own, non-department issued tourniquet kit to save Mr. Luciano’s life. Mark Schwartz was issued an award for this event.”
Guy Page is publisher of the Vermont Daily Chronicle. Reprinted with permission.