Public Safety

Franklin County state’s attorney issues Brady letter against new county sheriff

Capt. John Grismore, center, can be seen kicking a man in custody at the Franklin County Sheriff's Office on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022. Screenshot courtesy of the Franklin County Sheriff's Office

The Franklin County state’s attorney has issued a Brady letter against the county’s brand-new sheriff, whose law enforcement certification is also under review due to an assault charge.

State’s Attorney John Lavoie provided these details about Franklin County Sheriff John Grismore to lawmakers during a state legislative committee hearing on Wednesday — the same day Grismore was sworn into office. Members of two House committees had invited Lavoie and others to testify on the role of Vermont sheriffs as the Legislature contemplates reforms to the elected county position. 

John Grismore. Photo courtesy Franklin County Sheriff's Office

Grismore, 49, is facing a misdemeanor charge of simple assault in state court. While employed as the Franklin County sheriff’s chief deputy, Grismore allegedly kicked a shackled man who had been in his department’s custody in August. The incident was caught on video.

The Brady letter against Grismore is based on statements he’d made about the alleged assault. Lavoie said Grismore’s account conflicted with the sworn statements of two law enforcement officers who witnessed the event.

“Statements made by Grismore to investigators and public statements made by him to the media characterize the blows struck to the prisoner as pushes with his foot. These statements are at odds with the affidavits of two deputy sheriffs present at the time who characterize the blows as kicks,” Lavoie said in the Brady letter, a copy of which he provided to VTDigger.

The letter is dated Dec. 19, 2022, but has not previously been reported. 

Franklin County State's Attorney John Lavoie wrote this Brady letter on Franklin County Sheriff-elect John Grismore.

Vermont state’s attorneys issue Brady letters, also known as Giglio letters, to flag law enforcement officers with known credibility issues such as lying or exhibiting bias. The letters can be used by a defense attorney to question the credibility of an investigating officer in a criminal case. Prosecutors often will simply not pursue any more cases from an officer who has received a Brady letter.

Lavoie said that, if the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department refers a case to his office — and it includes a primary affidavit from Grismore — he will take a closer look at the case before deciding to prosecute it.

“I'm not going to reject it out of hand if there's a victim involved, because, again, I don't want the victim to suffer,” Lavoie told the House Judiciary and House Government Operations and Military Affairs committees on Wednesday morning. “But if it's a non-victim case, and it comes to me with the sheriff’s signature, then that case will be declined.”

“I may have this situation go on for four years,” Lavoie added, referring to the duration of county sheriffs’ terms. 

Grismore did not immediately return messages requesting comment on Wednesday afternoon.

In an interview on Wednesday, Lavoie acknowledged that he has already dismissed a number of criminal cases that Grismore handled. The prosecutor said he couldn’t immediately recall the number of such cases.

Lavoie said Grismore is certified as a Level II law enforcement officer in Vermont, a status that excludes him from investigating certain major crimes. Only Level III officers have full law enforcement authority.

Grismore was fired from the sheriff’s department last August, after the assault video surfaced. He returned as the department’s new sheriff on Wednesday, after running for the position as the only candidate on the ballot and winning last year.

As an elected official, Grismore can be removed from office only through impeachment. State officials have described that as a challenging political process, but some have indicated Grismore’s impeachment is on the table.

“I want my committee and the legislators and especially the public to start to understand more broadly what I have come to understand about impeachment, which is that it will be arduous, difficult and there is very little precedent on how to successfully prosecute to completion,” Rep. Mike McCarthy, D-St. Albans City, who chairs the House Committee on Government Operations and Military Affairs, said in an interview earlier this week. 

“Sheriff-elect Grismore is going to get sworn in on Wednesday. There's a reason that I'm starting this testimony in the House on Wednesday,” he said.

Lavoie also told the lawmakers that the Vermont Criminal Justice Council is reviewing Grismore’s law enforcement certification due to the assault allegation. A list of unprofessional conduct definitions for law enforcement officers guides the council in evaluating police certifications.

The council declined to confirm or deny whether it was reviewing Grismore’s certification, citing a policy prohibiting discussing specific cases.

But the council’s deputy director, Christopher Brickell, in broadly explaining the organization’s processes, said it cannot issue a decision on a case if the person being evaluated is the subject of an ongoing criminal proceeding.

Grismore is charged in Franklin County with simple assault, but the case is being prosecuted by the Grand Isle County State’s Attorney’s Office to avoid conflicts of interest.

Last week, Vermont State Police said they were investigating the finances of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department and Grismore due to concerns that arose during a routine audit of the department in January.

Ethan Weinstein contributed to this report.

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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.


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