By Guy Page
The Shelburne Police Department has released footage of an incident for which State’s Attorney Sarah George wants assault charges brought against a police officer.
The video release is the latest action in a year-long dispute between George and Vermont law enforcement over her allegation of police violence in the case.
On January 23, 2022, Corporal Jonathan Marcoux arrested a young woman for allegedly operating her mother’s car without permission. Video shows the young woman was spitting at Marcoux as he placed her, handcuffed, into the back of the cruiser. Spitting on a police officer is considered assault under Vermont law. After the second visible spitting incident, Marcoux’s arm can be seen placed forcibly on the suspect’s neck and jaw.
“That’s what we call an assault on a police officer,” Marcoux can be heard telling the suspect. “You’re going to be charged with that as well.”
Shelburne Police released four separate videos of SPD cruiser and body cam footage. In all of the footage, Marcoux speaks calmly and professionally to the suspect, and there are no other apparent incidents of possible excessive force. The suspect continues spitting, apparent profanity, and profane gestures even when handcuffed.
State’s Attorney Sarah George, however, looked at the footage and concluded “there was probable cause to believe Corporal Marcoux committed simple assault,” she said in an August 18 “Giglio” a/k/a “Brady” letter of official reprimand. She noted she had asked the Vermont State Police to cite Marcoux for simple assault.
The State Police declined.
Giglio letters such as published by George have grown increasingly common. While state’s attorneys consider them essential to drawing attention to police violence, some police and their supporters see overuse of the letters as anti-police weaponization.
The ACLU-VT offers the following supportive explanation for the use of Giglio/Brady letters:
By way of background, the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland and the line of cases that followed it established that when police officers commit acts that undermine their credibility – including bias, lying, and theft – prosecutors are obligated to disclose that information to defense counsel.
To ensure they are satisfying these constitutional mandates, prosecutors’ offices across the nation have created “Brady lists” – lists of police officers whose credibility issues would likely undermine their testimony at trial. Brady lists are widely recognized as a best practice for protecting the integrity of the justice system.
In Vermont, there is currently no statewide policy governing Brady disclosures or statewide Brady list, and only one county prosecutor’s office (Chittenden County) maintains its own list. Instead, the general practice among state’s attorneys is to send Brady letters to their county’s criminal defense attorneys, noting that a particular police officer might have credibility issues. In some cases, where prosecutors believe an officer’s credibility issues will taint future cases, they may also send letters to the officer’s police department, noting that the officer’s cases will no longer be accepted for prosecution. At times, such a letter could be cause for termination.
Guy Page is publisher of the Vermont Daily Chronicle. Reprinted with permission.