Senate bill: up to 5 years in prison for threats to public officials

By Guy Page

A handful of Vermont state senators want to extend ‘criminal threatening’ statutes to protect state officials, school board members, and other “groups of persons” from threats of injury or death. The American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont warns the bill “risks potentially chilling political expression.”

Under a bill discussed yesterday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Vermonters found guilty of threatening state officials, Vermont school boards, and other groups of people in schools and other public areas, could be imprisoned for up to five years.

The push for S.265 began following an angry call to the Secretary of State’s office following the 2020 election was reported by Condos. Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault later found the call was not prosecutable. Momentum grew after school boards in Vermont and nationwide were faced with non-violent but vocal groups of parents angry over Critical Race Theory instruction and mask mandates.

In a response to a national school board group’s calls for action against ‘domestic terrorists’ at school board meetings, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland Oct. 4 promised Department of Justice and FBI intervention “measures designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel” in every jurisdiction in the U.S.A. – of which Vermont is one.

Garland later backed off the statement, and school board associations in Vermont and across the U.S. repudiated the national school board letter.

What’s the purpose of S.265? Co-sponsor and Judiciary Chair Richard Sears said Vermont needs to protect mask mandate enforcers and school boards.

I can try to explain it as one of the sponsors of the bill,” Sears (D-Bennington) said in a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting yesterday. “What we’re attempting to get at, without naming just election workers – originally the request came from [Secretary of State Jim] Condos – we were also looking at the store owner who’s threatened over a masked mandate…. what about a school board that’s threatened, for example.”

The other sponsors are Sen. Alison Clarkson (D-Windsor), Rebecca Balint (D-Windham), Ann Cumming (D-Washington), Mark MacDonald (D-Orange), Richard McCormack (D-Windsor), and Andrew Perchlik (D/P Washington).

S265 would “expand the scope of the crime of criminal threatening.” It says “a person… making a threat that places any person in reasonable apprehension that death or serious bodily injury will occur at a place of public accommodation shall be imprisoned not more than five years or fined not more than $5,000.00, or both.”

The bill also defines “a place of public accommodation” as a school or other public meeting place. Elsewhere in the bill it expands ‘person’ to “a group of persons.”

The DCF employee hired to monitor threats to state workers after the 2015 murder of DCF worker Lara Sobel outside a Washington County court room offered written testimony that the bill is needed to protect workers dealing face-to-face with violent, troubled people.

“I was sorry to hear about the number of threats received by members of this committee, references to your colleagues’ receiving threats and the threats spoken to last week by the Secretary of State to his office and other elected and election officials,” Shannon Morton said. “The impact that these can have on the threatened party and those that care about them is something we within the Family Services Division unfortunately know very well. Since we began diligently tracking threats and other staff safety incidents in 2015, we average about 110 reported incidents per year. These vary from direct in person threats, third party threats, threats on social media, verbal assaults, physical assaults and others.”

Harrison Stark of the American Civil Liberties Union of VT agreed the law must protect elected officials: “These threats are more than just attempts to threaten or intimidate particular individuals. They really are attempts to undermine our democracy, to erode the machinery of self-government and to force particular people essentially out of public life.”

But Stark said current law already covers these offenses – so S265 isn’t needed.

Defender General Matt Valerio agreed: “The activity that is currently set forth in this bill is already covered by a number of criminal statutes, not the least of which is simple assault, simple assault by physical menace, disorderly conduct, reckless endangerment, and aggravated assault.”

Stark also expressed concern about the threat to political expression. “In our view that language is both superfluous and unnecessary,” he said. “It also risks potentially chilling protected expression and certain forms of political hyperbole.”

Stark doesn’t cite this example, but elsewhere supporters of school board ‘protection’ point to supposed threats made by an angry mom who told a school board during a meeting she would ‘take them out.’ Yet supporters say it was a promise to take political action.

A revised draft of S.265 is scheduled for Senate Judiciary review Friday morning at 9:45.

Guy Page is publisher of the Vermont Daily Chronicle. Reprinted with permission.

Image courtesy of Public domain

19 thoughts on “Senate bill: up to 5 years in prison for threats to public officials

  1. Sounds like one step away from how the SS dealt with the same issue and that was a double tap from behind.

  2. It’s interesting that right here in Vermont we have felons roaming the streets and highways carrying illegal guns and transporting poison with rap sheets as long as a roll of toilet paper, but swear at one of these prima donnas and you get 5 years in jail? Perhaps these illustrious leaders realize they are pi$$ing off the public with never ending nonsense, the theft of freedom, heavy taxation, gun control, business restrictions, climate change and forced mandates. Do they see what’s happening around the world? People want freedom from tyranny. Maybe if they started acting like representatives instead of our overlords we could all return to civility!

  3. I would think that if someone really wanted to harm any state big shot, the first order of business would be to keep thier mouth shut about it, Threats are free speech, like it or not, actions will put you behind bars,,,or worse. so, this is all just a pacifier to em,,,it won’t matter, 5 years or 50,,,if someone wants to get ya,,,they’ll find a way

  4. Vermont and America are becoming more and more like Mao’s China every day. Mao is cheering from the grave and our Founders are weeping. It is time to remember and shout out once again the wise words of Patrick Henry, ” Give me liberty or give me death”.

  5. We can’t have the commoners upsetting the commie rulers now can we..

    We surely can’t have laws that would diminish the taxpayers right to disagree with officials
    who are not “doing” for the good of the citizens.. If there’s a singular problem they can
    get a restraining order like us peons have to do.. let the laws that are on the books protect
    them as their supposed to protect us..

  6. Why do we have different laws for leaders and other laws for citizens?

    Are not all men created equal? Don’t we all have equal Justice under the law?

    Are some more equal than others?

    What doth the VTGOP say? We know what the Marxist commies say.

    • yes i am just thinking the same…..dont we already have laws covering threats, harm, ect….Yes we do…….We dont need more……
      and especially for a “particular group”……..enough division alright already…….

  7. So a group of guys, sitting around, drinking beer, watching hockey, the subject turns to a certain politician. One of the guys, after 4 beers says; ‘I wish somebody would shoot that SOB. He’s overheard and gets arrested, convicted and gets 5 year? Oh Moses smell the roses! The left is becoming the very thing that they’ve been warning everybody about for the past 50 years. As a former left winger I never thought I’d see the day I’d be forced over to the right.

  8. I feel threatened by ALL our legislators currently participating in a global genocide/apartheid/eugenics/population control program this world has ever known.

    What is MY recourse? Tit for tat or its just more tyranny by tryannical power whores who’ve sold their Souls to Satan, with interest, now that we’re in the end game for humanity.

    I say again: I FEEL THREATENED BY OUR CURRENT LEGISLATORS AND STATE OFFICIALS pushing the poison death jab, and cutting off the oxygen to my brain, on a daily basis (I haven’t so no brain damage from that, thankfully).

    What is MY recourse?

    • For sure Ed.
      We’ve had counties over here in NH that wanted to secede over the years and join Vermont.
      It’s stunning to me to look at VT today and know there was a day when the The Vermont Republic was considered further right than even NH was, that they thought their NH county had gone soft they wanted to join Vermont…*shaking my head*

      It’s all stunning when you really think about it all.

  9. I don’t see this bill applying only to ‘threats to public officials’ – but to threats made by anyone in public places. It applies to public officials as well. As long as there’s ‘equal protection’ (14th Amendment), fine. Increase the penalty of imprisonment from one year, as it is now, to five years.

    Now, if these legislators mess with the laws of ‘qualified immunity’, the legal doctrine that protects certain public servants (e.g., the police) from facing litigation for violating citizens’ civil rights while on the job – that’s another ball game entirely. For example, what happens when a school teacher or school administrator fails to protect a parent’s child from threats by another student, or worse, when the school teacher or school administrator ‘threatens’ (as defined by statute) the parent’s child

  10. They want to get voter frauded into office, stay there for life becoming rich, and be completely untouchable and unaccountable to the people.

    Vermonters, remember who works for who..and make that known.

  11. And they will define “threat” as whatever suits them at any given moment. The first move in sending those with unapproved viewpoints to the gulag.

  12. Yes, these spineless politicians and public officials spout out their rhetoric with no concerns
    on who or what they affect, it’s about their agenda, and ” you ” shouldn’t question there mostly
    useless agenda and now if you stand up and voice your concerns …………..Prison !!

    Elected officials & public officials ” The Kings & lords ” of your life, and they know best, fools
    in charge, if they can’t defend their policies on merit……. cowards !!

    Are these the same clowns that want to defund the police, who are they going to call?

  13. Of course! These special people deserve extraordinary protections as they carry out their genocide of the American patriot.

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