Crime and Justice

Judge tosses charge that off-duty state trooper gave false information to another officer during traffic stop

Vermont State Trooper Dylan LaMere appears in Chittenden Superior Court in Burlington on July 19. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

A judge has thrown out a charge against an off-duty Vermont State Police trooper who was accused of providing false information to another police officer during a traffic stop.

The ruling issued Tuesday by Judge John Pacht in Chittenden County Superior criminal court stated that, while Vermont State Police Trooper Dylan LaMere may not have provided truthful information to the officer who pulled over his Jeep, he did not “deflect” that officer from any investigation of him.

“Viewing the evidence in this case in the light most favorable to the State, and excluding modifying evidence, the court finds that the State has failed to make out a prima facie case as to the element of deflection,” the judge wrote in his five-page ruling. 

LaMere was charged in July with negligent driving and giving false information to a police officer. The charges stemmed from a traffic stop shortly after 3 a.m. on May 8, when LaMere’s Jeep allegedly had been seen swerving on Susie Wilson Bypass in Essex.

The charge of negligent operation of a motor vehicle against LaMere remains pending. 

According to charging documents, LaMere told Essex Police Officer Justin Lindor, who stopped him, that he was distracted by an email he received on his phone. That message, LaMere told the officer, was dispatching him to a fatal accident. LaMere was allowed to drive away, according to the charging documents. 

A subsequent investigation by Vermont State Police determined that there had been no fatal crash and LaMere had not been dispatched that night, prompting the charges.

David Sleigh, an attorney representing LaMere, argued that the charge of making a false report to law enforcement should be dismissed, contending in a filing that “nothing the defendant said deflected any investigation of him.”

According to Vermont law, it’s illegal to provide false information to police with the intention of implicating someone else or to “deflect an investigation” from oneself. 

Sleigh contended in a court filing that LaMere had “arguably” confessed to negligent driving when he told the officer who pulled him over that he was on his phone while operating his vehicle. Sleigh’s motion stated that LaMere’s statements that night did not rise to the level of  deflecting any investigation away from himself.

Pacht, in his ruling, agreed. 

“Officer Lindor asked (LaMere) if he was going to a call, to which (LaMere) replied ‘yeah, I am going to head up,’ or ‘yes,’ or ‘yeah, yeah, yeah,’” the judge wrote. “These are the alleged misstatements. In his deposition, Officer Lindor appears to testify that he inferred

from Defendant’s statements that he was going up to the accident site.”

Lindor moved to within 6 inches of LaMere’s face and did not see any “observable sign” of intoxication before telling LaMere he was free to go, the judge wrote. 

“Defendant concedes the alleged false statements for the purposes of the motion but contends that they did nothing to deflect Officer Lindor’s investigation of the alleged negligent operation,” Pacht wrote.

Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George, whose office is prosecuting the case, confirmed on Wednesday that she had issued a Brady letter against LaMere this summer. “Brady letters” — also known as “Giglio letters” — are issued to defense counsel to make them aware of police officers whose actions have included lying, bias or theft. 

“Regardless of whether we have a (false information to police) charge against him,” George wrote in an email, “there is no dispute that he lied to Officer Lindor about the fatal crash, so his credibility issues remain.”

In the Brady letter, George wrote that, because of credibility issues, she would no longer accept cases from LaMere or call him as a witness. 

She declined further comment, stating that she needed more time to thoroughly read the decision.

LaMere had been granted a voluntary, unpaid leave of absence from the state police at the time of his arraignment in July. Adam Silverman, a state police spokesperson, said Wednesday that LaMere’s status will remain unchanged until the case against him is resolved.

Sleigh, LaMere’s attorney, said Wednesday he was unsure what the ruling means to his client’s future law enforcement career.

“The command’s primary concern was that he had committed a crime involving dishonesty, and that is no longer the case,” he said.

But there remains the issue of the Brady letter, which Sleigh said he would address with the state’s attorney.

“My suspicion is that Ms. George will persist in the notion that he was untruthful and that her opinion of his veracity remains the same,” Sleigh said. “If that’s the case, we may be in a position of seeking a remedy for that.”

Doing so may prove difficult, he added. 

“It’s a state’s attorney exercise of discretion,” Sleigh said. “Whether we could compel a retraction is an open question.” 

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Alan J. Keays

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