A former captain with the Caledonia County Sheriff’s Department is accused of seeking nude photos and sex from several women he encountered as an officer in exchange for money.
Stephen Bunnell, 47, of St. Johnsbury was issued a citation Tuesday through his attorney on misdemeanor charges of prostitution and engaging in prohibited acts, Vermont State Police said in a news release Tuesday evening.
He is due to be arraigned next month in Caledonia County Superior criminal court in St. Johnsbury.
The citations come after a lengthy investigation, according to the release, that started after St. Johnsbury Police uncovered allegations against Bunnell during one of their cases.
The St. Johnsbury Police referred the matter to the Caledonia County State’s Attorney’s Office, according to the release. The prosecutors there asked the state police Bureau of Criminal Investigation to take the case.
The Caledonia County State’s Attorney Office also recused itself from the case, with investigators working closely in the probe with Windham County State’s Attorney Tracy Shriver.
VTDigger initially reported on the investigation involving Bunnell last year, following reports in the Caledonian Record, which first obtained unsealed documents in the matter.
According to those reports, the investigation into Bunnell started after a multi-agency drug raid Feb. 21, 2020, at the home of a St. Johnsbury woman charged with selling cocaine and heroin.
The unsealed records, VTDigger reported, showed that Bunnell assisted in the raid. Officers also obtained Facebook messages and saw that the woman had been talking to the deputy, prompting the state police investigation.
Another woman, who reported to have known Bunnell through police interactions, spoke to investigators a couple of months later.
The woman said she met Bunnell several times for sex — sometimes while he was still on duty. In addition, VTDigger reported, she said that Bunnell had given her payments of between $300 and $400 to have sex with him.
A phone call Tuesday evening to a number listed for Bunnell was not immediately returned.
Corby Gary, a St. Johnsbury lawyer representing Bunnell, said Tuesday night his client intends to plead not guilty at his arraignment.
“He didn’t do it,” Gary said. “Here’s what I can tell you: He will plead not guilty to any and all charges because he engaged in no criminal conduct.”
“People up here who know the sources of the allegations would consider the sources,” he said.
Caledonia County Sheriff Dean Shantley did not immediately return a message Tuesday evening seeking comment.
The release from state police identified Bunnell as a former captain in the sheriff’s department. Gary, Bunnell’s attorney, said his client resigned from the department “some time” ago.
Gary said he was surprised to be contacted Tuesday by state police.
“I hadn’t heard a thing in the longest time about this, nothing, dead in the water,” Gary said. “Then I get a call from the detective asking if I’ll accept the citation.”