Crime and Justice

Defense attorney wants criminal case against trooper dismissed due to prosecutorial delays

Vermont State Police Trooper Robert Zink. Vermont State Police photo

The attorney for a Vermont state trooper accused of assaulting an arrestee wants to get the case dismissed due to what he described as delay tactics by state prosecutors.

Robert Zink, 40, of Arlington has pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of simple assault. He was suspended from work shortly after the alleged incident in Shaftsbury in February 2021.

In a Bennington hearing on Friday, Zink’s attorney, David Sleigh, repeated what he’d said earlier this summer: they’re ready for trial and are concerned about prosecutorial delays.

Sleigh said the Vermont Attorney General’s Office took nearly two months to send him a state expert witness’s report, a document that he was told at a hearing in June would be coming soon. At that hearing, Sleigh had said that before the case could move forward, he’d probably need to depose the state expert, or get their sworn testimony outside of court.

“As a pattern of dilatory conduct in this case, the attorney finally produced the report a day before yesterday, using up 58 of 60 days, after representing that they would produce it shortly,” Sleigh told Superior Court Judge Cortland Corsones.

“If we're talking about geological epochs, they're fairly quick, but otherwise this case has been pending since the spring of 2021,” he said. “We're going to file a motion to strike their expert report, to dismiss the case.”

Assistant Attorney General Robert Lees, who stood in for Assistant Attorney General Paul Barkus, said prosecutors just “recently” received their expert’s report and sent it to Sleigh as soon as they could.

It’s unclear what the expert’s report says, or what issues it addresses, because the document is not available for public viewing.

Corsones scheduled Zink for a jury draw and jury trial in November. Meanwhile, the state plans to depose the defense’s own expert and Sleigh expects to file a motion to dismiss the case and depose the state expert.

“I will proceed on a non-glacial pace,” Sleigh told the court.

When asked why he believes the state is delaying Zink’s case, Sleigh told VTDigger he could speculate that prosecutors “have a hard time finding experts to say what they want to say” or they just didn’t move very quickly.

“Doesn’t matter to me what the explanation is given the delay,” the lawyer said, adding that being in this limbo has been difficult for Zink. He joined state police in 2008.

In a statement, the Vermont Attorney General’s Office said it “disagrees with the defense counsel's characterization of the procedural history of this case.” It said the state would respond to any motions filed by the defense.

Zink, who had been assigned to the Shaftsbury barracks, is accused of using excessive force against Christopher Campbell, a Shaftsbury man suspected of drunken driving on Feb. 23, 2021.

According to court records, Zink repeatedly struck the handcuffed man on his leg and head while he was resisting arrest and being combative. A state police detective from the Williston Barracks, who conducted the investigation on Zink to avoid a conflict of interest, said the two other troopers at the scene believed Zink used excessive force.

Simple assault carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and/or a fine of $1,000.

Zink is free from jail on his own recognizance while awaiting trial. State police said he was placed on paid leave a day after the alleged incident, then put on unpaid leave in April 2021.

Campbell, 42, faced multiple charges in the incident, including drunken driving and assault on a police officer. He later pleaded guilty to driving under the influence.

In January, Campbell filed a $25 million federal lawsuit against Vermont State Police, Zink and the two other troopers who arrested him that February 2021. The civil case is still pending in the U.S. District Court for Vermont.

One of the defendants, David Pfindel, resigned from the state police in September 2021 amid a federal investigation into whether he and two other troopers faked Covid-19 vaccination cards.

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Tiffany Tan

About Tiffany

Tiffany Tan is VTDigger's Southern Vermont reporter. Before joining VTDigger, she covered cops and courts for the Bennington Banner from 2018 to 2021. Prior to that, Tiffany worked for the Rapid City Journal in South Dakota and spent more than 10 years working for newspapers and television stations in Manila, Singapore and Beijing.

Email: ttan@vtdigger.org

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