Charges Dismissed for Vt. Defendant Tackled, Struck by Taser in his Home
By Jennifer Hersey Cleveland
Monday, July 8, 2013
(Published in print: Saturday, July 6, 2013)
Newport City, Vt. — Criminal charges against a Newport man, who was tackled in his own home by police and shot twice with a stun gun, have been dismissed because the intrusion into the man’s home was without warrant or cause.
Judge Howard VanBenthuysen wrote in his order that both the U.S. and Vermont constitutions protect citizens from the intrusion of privacy that occurred in this case.
On Nov. 9, 2012, Newport City Police officer Aaron Lefebvre and Chief Seth DiSanto responded to a report that a man was swinging a bat next to Lake Road. When they arrived, no one was outside, but apparently familiar with the address, Lefebvre hollered to “Jason” to come outside.
Defendant Jason Naylor, 40, eventually acquiesced to Lefebvre’s commands and spoke with him about the bat-swinging while seated on his porch. During the conversation, Lefebvre determined that Naylor had been drinking.
When Lefebvre asked Naylor to submit to a breath test, Naylor got up and went inside.
Lefebvre responded by tackling the man in his home, and while wrestling with Lefebvre and DiSanto, Naylor was struck twice with a Taser weapon. He was charged with domestic assault (later dismissed), disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest.
He already pleaded guilty to one count of disorderly conduct, but after public defender Jill Jourdan filed the motion to suppress and dismiss, State’s Attorney Alan Franklin added another count of disorderly conduct.
The judge’s order dismisses all remaining charges.
Jourdan argued that the state couldn’t prove its case because Lefebvre had no right to enter Naylor’s home or arrest him and that the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article 11 of the Vermont Constitution protect Naylor from warrantless arrest.
The state countered, arguing that Lefebvre had the right to take Naylor into protective custody because of a civil statute allowing police to do just that when someone is incapacitated because of his alcohol use.
Franklin also argued that Lefebvre’s actions were lawful because Naylor’s resistance to being tackled and subjected to electric shock amounted to disorderly conduct committed in the presence of an officer.
Whichever justification the state picks, VanBenthuysen found that “the police actions were not justified.”
A CopVu video shows Naylor walking from his house of his own volition and speaking with Lefebvre, which contradict the state’s assertion that Naylor was incapacitated. “The police cannot initiate a physical altercation with an individual walking back into his own home and then attempt to justify the arrest by claiming the resulting resistance amounted to disorderly conduct,” VanBenthuysen wrote.