MIDDLEBURY — Two Bridport men pleaded not guilty Monday to felony charges in connection with incidents targeting migrant farmworkers in Addison County last summer. Another Bridport man pleaded not guilty to lesser charges.
Bryan Ashley-Selleck, 26, and Christian Leggett, 19, face three felony charges for third degree arson and two counts of aggravated stalking with a deadly weapon. They were also charged with disorderly conduct, unlawful mischief and petty larceny.
Ashley-Selleck faces an additional misdemeanor charge for lying to a police officer and falsely implicating another person in a crime.
The aggravated stalking charges stem from several incidents when police say the men fired a gun near the residences of several farmworkers. The men also allegedly burned a large round hay bale at a farmworker’s residence.
Christopher Thompson, 26, faces fewer charges. His lawyer Stephanie Foley successfully argued there was insufficient evidence to prove Thompson participated in a number of the incidents.
State’s Attorney Dennis Wygmans agreed to refile lesser accessory charges against Thompson within 10 days, at which point Foley can contest the new charges.
Currently, Thompson faces two counts of unlawful mischief for damage of $250 or less. A third charge of petty larceny, for property stolen that is worth less than $900, is pending review by Judge Alison Arms.
The alleged incidents of harassment and vandalism took place throughout the summer, with incidents occurring from early June to late August, according to an affidavit. Police say that Ashley-Selleck, Leggett and Thompson disturbed or vandalized the homes of several migrant farmworkers in Bridport.
In one case, police say the men dumped trash on and removed trash cans from someone’s lawn. In another instance, video footage captured three men believed to be Ashley-Selleck, Leggett and Thompson banging on the door of a house late at night and damaging the screen. Further property damage included removing E911 stickers from houses, damaging and stealing mailboxes, breaking windows and pushing air conditioning units through windows.
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In addition to filing new charges against Thompson in the next 10 days, Wygmans said he will file new information affidavits in all three cases that include the full names of the victims, unless he is able to find legal justification for concealing the names further. The victims are currently listed in court documents only by their initials, which Wygmans said he did to protect them.
“My concern was protecting the identity of individuals who might be subject to further scrutiny based on their immigration status,” he said. “I don’t want to make them a target unnecessarily.”
The incidents were first brought to public notice in late August by the activist group Migrant Justice.
All three men were released on conditions. Leggett and Ashley-Selleck are prohibited from buying, having or using any firearms or other dangerous or deadly weapons. Ashley-Selleck is prohibited from buying, having or drinking alcohol, and was ordered to undergo a substance abuse evaluation by a licensed counselor and follow any treatment plan the counselor recommends.
The court ordered all three men not to have contact with the victims or enter the premises of the victims’ land or places of work. The men are also ordered not to engage in violent, threatening or tumultuous behavior.
During his arraignment, Leggett filed for youthful offender status, which if granted would move his case to family court from criminal court. Defendants under 22 years of age are eligible for youth offender status in Vermont.
While Leggett does not have another court date scheduled as he waits for the verdict on his youthful offender status motion, Ashley-Selleck is scheduled to appear in court again on Monday, Nov. 18 and Thompson is set to appear in early January.
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