BURLINGTON — A Williston man charged with killing five Central Vermont teens in a fiery car crash believed he was controlled by lights on an ATM, music from his car radio and Morse Code from the static on his TV, a Boston-area psychiatrist testified on Monday.
Steven D. Bourgoin, 38, was clearly insane at the time of the wrong-way crash, Dr. David Rosmarin testified in Vermont Superior Court.
He said Bourgoin had mental health issues for much of his life, but he really took a spiral downward about a month before the fatal crash. Rosmarin said Bourgoin also thought he had been selected to be part of a secret government mission and he was getting all kinds of messages from various sources, including several electronics.
He also thought an emergency medical technician was there to extricate him for the government mission while he was being taken by ambulance to the hospital for his serious injuries.
“He almost died,” Rosmarin said about Bourgoin’s injuries, which included a fractured spine, various facial fractures and a broken hip. He also had seizures due to his head injuries.
Rosmarin explained his professional diagnosis was based in part on two personal visits with Bourgoin in prison that totaled about nine hours. The doctor said he also had the benefit of various witness statements, police reports and the findings of a psychiatrist retained by the state who also found Bourgoin insane.
Asked if he read the report by the second psychiatrist, Dr. Rena Kapoor, of Yale University, Rosmarin said he couldn’t because the prosecution told her not to write a report after she indicated she would be siding with the defense.
Bourgoin has pleaded not guilty to five counts of second-degree murder for crashing his truck into a car carrying the five teens on Interstate 89 in Williston at about 11:55 p.m. Oct. 8, 2016.
He also has denied two subsequent misdemeanor charges: aggravated operation of a Williston Police cruiser without permission and reckless driving of the police vehicle by driving it into the first crash scene.
Eli Brookens, 16, of Waterbury; Janie Chase Cozzi, 15, of Fayston; Liam Hale, 16, of Fayston; and Cyrus Zschau, 16, of Moretown were trapped in the burning car, state police said. Mary Harris, 16, of Moretown, was ejected through a sun roof as the car went off I-89 and rolled into the median, police said.
Testimony indicated they are all believed to have died almost instantly from blunt force trauma.
Also Monday Judge Kevin Griffin denied a defense request for a mistrial on the grounds the prosecution failed to turn over all the case information as required.
The request, which came with the jury out of the courtroom, focused on testimony provided Friday by Bourgoin’s former fiancé, Anila Lawrence. She testified the defendant had told her at some point that there were no wrong way traffic signs on Interstate 89. Lawrence also testified that Bourgoin expressed interest in her studying of brain functioning.
Defense lawyer Robert Katims said both items were new information that had never been disclosed by the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office before trial as required under the court rules. Katims, in his mistrial motion, said some of the information was “exceedingly prejudicial against the defendant.”
He said an extensive search after court on Friday showed nothing had been provided and the mistrial motion was prepared.
State’s Attorney Sarah George said she met with Lawrence twice and that she gave a 75-minute recorded statement. During a later conversation, Lawrence mentioned Bourgoin indicating there were no wrong way highway signs, said George, who is prosecuting the case with her deputy Susan Hardin.
George said she mentioned the no sign comment orally to the defense during a meeting this spring, and that the studying of the brain information was contained in a CD that was put in a pickup mailbox for the defense at the courthouse.
Katims said the CD was never received. The state acknowledged it never put a cover letter or any note with the CD or sent an email indicating that it was available for pickup.
George could not offer an explanation.
Katims, who is defending Bourgoin with public defender Sara Puls, said Lawrence gave an early statement to the defense, but was not cooperating and a decision was made not to seek her depositions before trial.
Griffin, a former public defender, said they could have taken a deposition.
The judge said he believes all four lawyers are ethical and it was hard to resolve the competing comments. He said he found the discovery rule had been violated by the state’s attorney’s office, but he would not declare a mistrial.
Griffin did agree to strike the portion of testimony about the no wrong way signs and later instructed the jury to forget they had heard that testimony.
It took the first two hours of the sixth day of the trial to resolve the issue before Rosmarin took the stand.
Bourgoin was trying to figure out what happened after the crash and was confused in the days leading up to it.
“He’s terrified. He’s grossly psychotic,” Rosmarin said. He said Bourgoin was sleeping downstairs at his condo because he feared that it might get burned down by Homeland Security.
Bourgoin also made hand signals out the window of his truck to what he thought was a drone flying overhead.
“He thought his garage was bugged,” the doctor said. Bourgoin also believed he was unable to share any information about the secret government mission because he was unsure who he could trust, Rosmarin said.
He did say Bourgoin never reported hearing voices. The doctor said that is often used by people who are faking. “They will add voices to fake it,” he said.
The doctor also reported Bourgoin was not suicidal.
“He has never tried to harm himself,” he said.
Bourgoin came from a split family and when his mother died of cancer when he was young, he went to live with an aunt, Rosmarin said. He said Bourgoin’s father was an alcoholic.
Bourgoin lost two close friends, both women, one to an overdose and another to suicide. Bourgoin had trouble at home, including financial issues, and he also assaulted Lawrence once in Massachusetts and later in Williston in May 2016.
Rosmarin said Bourgoin went to UVM Medical Center at about 8:45 a.m. the morning of the crash to try to get medical assistance. The medical staff realized he was in crisis and needed mental help, but he apparently walked out without anybody noticing.
Burlington lawyer Tris Coffin, of Downs Rachlin Martin law firm, which represents the hospital, was among those taking in the doctor’s testimony. Hospital personnel, including security guards, are expected to take the stand sometime after Rosmarin.
Katims was still questioning Rosmarin as court ended for the day. The prosecution will get a chance to cross examine him when the defense is done.
The only other witness offered Monday was Kenna M. Johnston, who worked for 17 years as a crash reconstruction specialist at the Crash Lab Inc. in Hampton, New Hampshire. Johnston, who recently left the private company, was called to dispute comments from one state witness about how close she was when the initial crash happened.
MONTPELIER — The city’s non-citizen voting charter change request has been sidelined this legislative session by Senate Pro Tempore Tim Ashe, D-Chittenden.
Montpelier requested a charter change to enact an ordinance to allow legal residents who are not citizens to vote in municipal elections after voters overwhelmingly approved the proposal by a two-to-one majority, 2,857-1,488, in the November elections.
If approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor, non-citizens would be allowed to vote for the municipal budget, mayor, city council candidates and other municipal issues, but not for the school budget because the Montpelier-Roxbury Public Schools District is a unified entity, according to Montpelier City Clerk John Odum.
The request fell to the House Government Operations Committee to consider the request after Rep. Mary Hooper, D-Montpelier, introduced H.207 with co-sponsor Rep. Warren Kitzmiller, D-Montpelier, the ranking member of the committee. The committee voted along party lines to approve the request, 11-3. Last month, the House voted 95-46 during the second reading of the bill to approve the request and approved the third reading on a voice vote, forwarding it to the Senate Government Operations Committee for consideration.
But in an email Monday, Ashe said the request would not be considered this year.
“All five members of our rules committee agreed we can’t add yet another complex issue to the Senate’s plate in the closing week,” Ashe wrote.
The decision left supporters of the charter change disappointed.
“If Montpelier voters say these folks are part of our community, they’re citizens of the city, even if they’re not citizens of the country, then Montpelier should have the right to do that. So, it’s a shame that whatever political forces are involved are inhibiting that process to carry the day,” Odum said on Monday.
Sen. Anthony Pollina, P/D-Washington, who is on the Senate Government Operations Committee, was also unhappy with the decision.
“To say that there’s no time to do it is a little ironic because if they had let it come to our committee when we first got it from the House, there would have been plenty of time,” Pollina said. “Our Government Operations Committee is more than willing and able to take it up and listen to testimony on the issue. It doesn’t mean that the ordinance is dead. It means that it’s not going to come up this year but there’s a very good chance that it will come up next year. I think, if the committee would support it, I think it would gain support on the Senate floor as well, so it doesn’t mean it’s dead forever.”
Pollina said he thought it was important when local voters support a request by a 2-1 margin that the Legislature do due diligence to consider the request.
“Otherwise, they’re sort of disrespecting the votes of the local folks, which I think is unfortunate,” Pollina said.
BARRE — Jayveon Caballero’s murder trial is looking like it will take place in late September rather than August.
Caballero, 31, has been charged with first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Markus Austin in Montpelier in January 2017. He pleaded not guilty to the charge in August, and is being held without bail at Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
According to court records, a witness told police Austin was shot around 4:30 a.m. Jan. 22, 2017, in the parking lot outside his 191 Barre St., apartment in Montpelier. Austin died from a 9-mm gunshot wound to the chest, according to police and court records.
Police said the shooting followed a fight outside Gusto’s bar in Barre the previous evening, when witnesses said Austin hit Caballero’s girlfriend, who required medical treatment as a result. Officials said Caballero waited outside Austin’s apartment before Austin was shot.
A hearing was held in Washington County criminal court in Barre Monday to check on the status of the case. The trial had been slated for August or September, but Caballero’s attorney Dan Sedon said September was more realistic due to the availability of witnesses that will testify in the case. Sedon said he and the state have been conducting depositions and another round of those are being scheduled now.
Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Anderson said Sedon is planning on using an expert and depending on what that expert is planning on testifying about, the state will likely want to depose the expert before the trial. Sedon had said in the past he’s been in contact with an expert on crime scenes and shooting reconstructions out of Texas. The expert he’s been talking to would be looking at angles of trajectory and possibly deflection of the bullet that killed Austin.
Sedon was given a May 30 deadline to get information about his expert to the state. Both parties were given a deadline of June 15 to file any pre-trial motions.
The trial had been expected to take 10 days. Sedon didn’t elaborate, but he said based on the information that’s been learned so far it shouldn’t take that long.
The trial is now slated for late September. The next hearing will be June 18 to see where things are at.
NORTHFIELD — Graduates of tradition-rich Norwich University did their school’s 200-year-old “I will try” motto one better on Saturday.
They didn’t just try, they triumphed.
On a day when they heard from their proud president, a best-selling author, and a “dead man” talking, the latest batch of graduates from the nation’s oldest private military college won what for most was a four-year battle and were promptly declared ready for war.
Judging by their jubilant faces as they strode across the stage in Jacob Shapiro Field House – most in dress blue uniforms, but many in traditional caps and gowns – Saturday’s victory was oh so sweet.
Any doubt about that was erased when a mix of military caps and mortar boards came raining down like confetti after the last of three celebratory volleys from the cannon just outside.
Typically there are only two – one to honor parents, family and friends who helped the graduates along the way and another to honor the graduates themselves.
With Norwich celebrating its bicentennial this year, President Richard Schneider happily broke with tradition and green-lighted a third in memory of Capt. Alden Partridge.
Partridge founded Norwich in the town after which it is named in 1819 and died years before the 1866 fire that prompted its move to Northfield. He was mentioned several times by Schneider and author Alex Kershaw during a ceremony that saw him put in a surprise appearance courtesy of actor, filmmaker and Waterbury dairy farmer George Woodard.
Sporting dress blue uniform and a countrified accent Woodard marveled at the evolution of the military college Partridge started 200 years ago and applauded its continuing quest to “become a more perfect university.”
Perfect will always be a reach, but Schneider who opened the ceremony in festive fashion, told graduates a Norwich diploma was something to be proud of.
“Norwich University is and has always been committed to preparing young people who can lead, follow, innovate, persevere and succeed with empathy, integrity and grit,” he said. “We can get stuff done.”
Schneider told 444 graduates – 159 civilian students and 285 members of the school’s storied Corps of Cadets – they had all been “tried” and “tested” Norwich-style and were ready from whatever comes next.
“You are prepared to lead and you are prepared to leave,” he said, describing the Class of 2019 as the latest success story in a “200-year legacy of transforming lives.”
Schneider credited Partridge for founding an institution with an impressive track record for educating leaders.
That special essence of Norwich that shapes us all, making the difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary individual, is the secret sauce and your life ahead will be forever enriched because of it,” he said, before turning the podium over to Kershaw.
Kershaw, whose best-know works include New York Times best-sellers “The Bedford Boys,” “The Longest Winter” and “Avenue of Spies,” recently wrote “Citizens & Soldiers: The First 200 Years of Norwich University.
Kershaw told graduates there is something special about Norwich and they were all evidence of that.
“You here … are the latest in a long line of citizens and soldiers, extraordinary soldiers, extraordinary fighters and dedicated public servants.”
Kershaw a World War II historian and British native, recounted the heroism of 1944 Norwich graduate Private Richard Austin, who ““jumped into the darkness above Normandy, one of the legendary Screaming Eagles,” to help liberate Europe. He also lauded Norwich’s many firsts, including the first eight women who became members of the Corps of Cadets in 1974.
Despite all the changes, Kershaw marveled at the durability of Norwich’s mission.
“The purpose of this place is exactly the same as it was 200 years ago when the first cadets marched in their first parade,” he said. “Norwich will always try to produce the most effective, the most patriotic and the most ethical of citizens and soldiers.”
Kershaw said Norwich had been a successful “launching pad” past classes and the “rigorous … disciplined and moral education” it provides would serve graduates well in the future. However, he said, they must do more than try.
“Day by day what you choose, what you think, what you do is who you become … Who you will be,” he said. “Your integrity is your destiny. It is the light that will guide your way.”
Only two students spoke during the ceremony – both shortly before Schneider borrowed a line from 1856 Norwich graduate Admiral George Dewey and instructed the cadets manning the cannon to “fire when ready.”
Carissa DeKalb was one of them.
Addressing civilian students, DeKalb instructed them to move their tassels from left to right and offered some parting advice.
“Be true to yourself, follow your passions and stick with ‘I will try,’” she said. “Norwich Forever!”
Morgan Woods, regimental commander of the Corps of Cadets, instructed the school’s military students to turn their rings in keeping with Norwich tradition.
“I wish you all the best in your future endeavors,” she said. “Stay the course. Norwich forever!”
“Our history shades our present, and is thus a part of our present. When that history is regrettable, including slavery, subjugation and discrimination, its shadows into our present are regrettable, too. We can’t expunge history, but we do well when we learn from it and take declarative steps to remediate its long-lasting effects and create a brighter history for future generations.”
In the news
Two troopers are on administrative leave following a shooting on Saturday. A2
The Barre Planning Commission is awaiting promised critiques of several proposed changes. A3
A Barre woman faces drug charges. A3
45th Annual Dance Performances. Contemporary Dance and Fitness Studio presents its 45th annual show of multiple ages and genres in an inspiring presentation. $12/$17, 7-10 p.m. Barre Opera House, 6 N. Main St., Barre, email@example.com, 802-229-4676.