Gov. Phil Scott called Friday for systemic changes to the way the Vermont National Guard handles misconduct cases, following a report in Seven Days this week about a Guard member who was accused of multiple counts of sexual and physical assault throughout his service.
The story revealed that the Guard was largely unaware of Daniel Blodgett's alleged criminal acts. The Guard relies on members to self-report criminal charges.
“It's just one of those issues that's been overlooked, to be perfectly blunt,” Scott said at his Friday press conference. “I agree with the readers and others, and General Knight, that the system should change, and will. I believe that we will see change and that we will have a better system as a result of this situation.”
Blodgett, who has been accused of rape and assault by multiple women and has at least eight misdemeanor criminal convictions, remains an active member of the Guard.
At a Facebook Live Town Hall Thursday night, Adjutant General Greg Knight said the allegations described in the Seven Days story were “despicable.”
“The actions described have no place in the Vermont National Guard or in our military,” Knight said. “Anybody who chooses to behave in such a way, they don’t deserve to be in uniform.”
He promised to take the "strongest and most appropriate action" to discipline Blodgett, but it can take six months to a year to separate someone from the military after they are convicted of a crime.
Rosie Chase, an attorney with the Defender General’s Franklin County Office, which is representing Blodgett in at least one of the cases against him, declined to comment.
Guard members should not receive preferential treatment, Knight said, and in fact, should be “held to a higher standard” than civilians in cases of misconduct. He said the Guard is working to improve identification of members who commit crimes.
Last year, the Guard worked with lawmakers to establish provost marshal positions intended to bridge the gaps between civilian law enforcement and the Guard. Knight said their first task has been to conduct a thorough scrub of the criminal records system to find “any other bad actors we have that we may not know about.”
When a Guard member is arrested, Knight said they have a duty to self report that. However, he said, “sometimes, we don’t catch everything.”
Knight said he has asked the Attorney General’s Office and the Vermont Association of Chiefs of Police to inquire during every arrest processing whether that person is serving in the Guard in order to expedite the transfer of information about crimes to Guard leadership.
Scott said he is “fully supportive” of Knight’s handling of the situation.
“I’m going to leave it to General Knight and others, and it may take a legislative change, I don’t know at this point,” Scott said. “But suffice it to say that we believe there needs to be change as well.”
In Blodgett’s specific case, Knight said that there are two possible routes forward. Knight said he has the power to remove a soldier like Blodgett immediately, though it would be an honorable discharge. The second option he said, would require the participation of the survivor and could result in a reduction of rank or a dishonorable discharge.
“Those are the things that I have to consider, but we’re looking at that,” Knight said.
In 2018, VTDigger published a seven-part series about Guard misconduct that included stories of women who allege they were sexually harassed and assaulted.
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