By Gregory J. Lamoureux
BURLINGTON: Two Franklin County men were charged Monday in Chittenden County Criminal Court. Each man was charged with four felonies and one misdemeanor.
Allen Pigeon, 56, of Swanton and his son, Zachary Pigeon, 29, of St. Albans, are each facing a misdemeanor simple assault charge. They also face felony counts of kidnapping with bodily injury or fear, obstruction of justice, burglary, and unlawful restraint in the second degree. The attorneys representing each of the men entered not guilty pleas on their behalf.
Zachary Pigeon was a police officer with the St. Albans Police Department at the time of his arrest, and his father, Allen, is a plumber and Real Estate agent. According to the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office, he owns and operates Allen’s Green Mountain Plumbing and Heating Services LLC as well as ADAD Properties LLC, both located in Swanton.
The charges were filed in Franklin County Superior Court on Monday morning but were handled in Chittenden County by teleconference due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic facing the state.
According to court records, the complaining witness told police that she knew the perpetrators to be relatives to her and recognized them, despite the surgical masks they were wearing.
The County Courier has chosen not to identify the woman who made the allegations, nor her exact relationship to the men involved in order to help to protect her identity- instead, we will refer to this woman as Jane.
The 26-year-old Jane told police that Zachary had sexually assaulted her repeatedly while the two were adolescents- continuing for at least four years, only subsiding when Zachary entered the Marines. She did also tell police the sexual abuse continued on a more sporadic basis when he returned from North Carolina, while on leave, when he was in the service.
Police were first contacted with the allegations on Friday, April 17th, around 12:45 pm by Jane’s biological father, telling police he thought they had already been contacted by Jane, but when State Police looked into the matter, they found no report had been filed.
Jane’s father told police the report would include a recent assault, as well as allegations about the sexual assault that began when Jane was young. He also told State Police the perpetrator was St. Albans Police Officer Zachary Pigeon, and that Jane had recently begun telling people about the alleged abuse, and Pigeon was not taking it well.
State Police, wanting to talk with Jane, began looking for the woman to get her side of the story. Almost two hours later, they found her, when they responded to a DUI Crash in the town of Swanton.
Jane was ultimately found to be under the influence of alcohol and charged with DUI, which State Police processed her for. They then turned to interview her about the alleged abuse that was reported by her father two hours prior.
Jane told police that on the evening of April 4th, and into the early morning hours of April 5th, she was asleep on the couch inside her Sheldon home off the Bedard Road, when two men entered her home, grabbed her, and threw her outside the single-story structure.
Jane went on to tell police the men were wearing surgical masks, but she could identify them by their voices, as well as Zachary’s eyes. Jane also went on to tell State Police the man she believed to be Zachary had a “cop haircut,” and the other man, who she believes to be Allen, had an “Elvis haircut” that was graying.
The physical abuse that evening, according to Jane, came with a threat- “if she said anything more, or tried to get them in any more trouble, she’d be dead, or she’d be wishing she was worse than dead,” wrote Detective Sergeant Clark Lombardi in a sworn statement to the court.
Jane continued to tell police of the assault, accusing the two men of handcuffing her, and burning her on her back with the end of a cigar.
One of the questions police asked Jane, was how she could positively identify Zachary. “(Jane) explained she would know Zach’s eyes anywhere ‘after staring at them for four years on top of you, you know somebody’s eyes,’ ” wrote Detective Lombardi.
Jane told police of the sexual assault in graphic detail, including how it progressed over the years, getting worse, until she was in her middle teen years when it mostly stopped. She also told police that it got to the point that Zachary would threaten her with a box cutter if he did not have his way with her. She also told police Zachary told her that if she refused, he would use Jane’s younger sister instead, according to her statement to State Police.
Jane told the Detective the current situation with Zachary escalated after she told her sister what had happened to her when she was younger. Jane’s sister later shared the allegation with her boyfriend, who was later arrested by St. Albans Police Officer Zachary Pigeon for driving without a license. That arrest was unrelated to the allegations of Jane’s assault.
Jane told police her sister was planning to use the information she knew about Jane and Officer Zachary Pigeon to get the charges dropped, but Jane pleaded with her sister not to do so because she didn’t want the information to get out.
Jane told police they could find the remains of the cigar, that was used to burn her, outside her home near her steps. Troopers later found a cigar butt with a plastic end in a burn pit on the property. That cigar butt was taken as evidence, but it was not disclosed in the affidavit if they were able to get any evidence from it.
Jane also told police that she had a voicemail from Allen, stating that she needed to “shut her mouth or she would have her throat slashed.” That voicemail had since been deleted, she told police.
Police interviewed Jane’s sister the following day. She told the Detectives much of the same story that Jane had told, noting that the two acted “weird” around each other when they were growing up. She also told the Detectives that she was with her boyfriend in February when Officer Pigeon arrested him for driving without a license. According to her statement to police, she told a second officer on the scene that Zachary had molested Jane when they were young.
“(Jane’s sister) believes this is what triggered (Jane) to be dragged out of her residence by Zachary and Allen,” wrote Detective Lombardi.
The Detective also spoke with a third party, who told police Jane had shared with him about the sexual abuse at the hands of Zachary. That person told police Jane had shared this in confidence with him as far back as seven years ago.
On Sunday, April 19th, police went to the North Main Street home of Zachary Pigeon in St. Albans to interview him about the allegations.
As police began to ask Zachary questions, he told police he had no idea why they were there to interview him, according to court records.
He went on to tell police there was never any sexual contact between himself and Jane, and he has not threatened Jane, nor had he spoken with Jane in approximately nine months.
He also told police that despite being related to Jane, he did not know where she was currently living.
Zachary later recanted his statement about not having any sexual contact with Jane, explaining that in 2018 the two had a consensual encounter while Zachary was driving. He told police he first lied about it because he was shameful about that, but that Jane had initiated the encounter as he drove.
Police asked Zachary about his work schedule, and where he had been in the beginning part of April.
He went through his schedule day by day, noting that he had April 3rd through the 5th off. Zachary told police he picked up his girlfriend, Rachel Taylor, on April 3rd, and didn’t go anywhere for the entire weekend.
St. Albans Police Chief Gary Taylor confirmed that Rachel Taylor is his niece. Chief Taylor explained that Zachary first applied to be an Officer in St. Albans in 2018, at which time Zachary was employed in Charleston, South Carolina as a law enforcement officer. At that time Taylor declined to hire Zachary because of the nature of Zachary’s divorce, telling him to come back in a year if he was still interested.
By the time a year had passed, Zachary had begun to date Chief Taylor’s niece, according to the Chief.
“There were no red flags,” Chief Taylor said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon, “He went through all the same background checks that every officer goes through. There were not any shortcuts taken.”
Despite the relationship, Chief Taylor insisted the decision to hire Zachary had nothing to do with him dating Taylor’s niece.
Chief Taylor said his department is conducting an internal investigation into the matter, including reviewing video of the arrest, and any statements made to his officers during the course of that case.
According to Chief Taylor, there were not statements discovered in the review of the recordings that would raise any eyebrows. Pigeon was required, as every officer is when hired, to complete a polygraph test where they are asked personal questions including those sexual in nature.
“There were derogatory statements from (the defendant) to Pigeon,” said Chief Taylor.
Zachary’s statement that he never left that weekend contradicts a statement by his father, Allen, who said that on the morning of April 5th, Allen and his son went to Tractor Supply to pick up a gun safe for Allen’s home. The two later returned a U-Haul trailer before Allen drove his son back to his North Main Street apartment.
The case is being prosecuted by Franklin County Assistant State’s Attorney Diane Wheeler, who normally handles Franklin County’s sex crimes, among others.
“This is not a situation where the complaining witness came forward,” Wheeler told Judge Gregory Rainville as she appeared by phone. “It was actually her father who reported the allegation, however (Jane) had reported to her sister and her boyfriend some time ago.”
Wheeler said that based on the facts in the case, and the nature of the crimes being alleged, it’s only right that the two men be held without bail in order to protect the safety of Jane.
“The complaining witness can not be safe in her own home,” Wheeler added.
Private attorney Mark Kaplan, who represents Zachary Pigeon, said a hold without bail order is not appropriate in the matter, pointing to “duplicative” charges.
“There are conditions or a combination of conditions that the court can set to protect the public and ensure he appears in court,” Kaplan said.
Arguing for his client’s release, Kaplan said Zachary has lived in St. Albans the better part of his entire life, with the exception of eight years that he spent in South Carolina, serving as a Marine and a Law Enforcement Officer. Kaplan said it should be noted that he had an honorable discharge and has no prior criminal record.
Kaplan suggested Zachary could live with a family member, designated by the court, in order for the safety of the public to be protected.
Private attorney Frank Twarog represents Allen, who also appeared by phone for the arraignment.
According to Twarog, he didn’t believe Allen should be held without bail either. Instead the court was asked to allow Allen Pigeon to be released with conditions that would allow him to continue to work.
“My client has no record at all,” Twarog said. “ My client is a professionally licensed plumber and a professionally licensed Realtor. He does have work pending and I would ask that the Court, if it were to impose a curfew, allow him to work during regular and emergency hours, given his plumbing occupation.”
Twarog also asked the court to consider an exception to a curfew for the care of Allen’s elderly parents, as he normally splits the care responsibilities with his siblings.
Ultimately Judge Gregory Rainville sided, mostly, with the defense, allowing both men to be released, but be sanctioned by a 24-hour curfew.
Rainville cited the extraordinary circumstance the state is in with the fight against the novel coronavirus as to why he would not be holding either man without bail pending the outcome of the case.
For Zachary, that curfew is to be with a relative on Cook Road in Swanton. His conditions also include that he not have any contact with Jane, nor his father.
Allen has been ordered to reside at his home, 24 hours a day, on Mountain View Drive in Swanton.
Judge Rainville also ordered that the two men not leave Franklin County, not possess any firearms or deadly weapons of any kind, and not discuss the case with anyone other than their legal team.
Zachary was also ordered not to have any contact with females under the age of 18.
The State did not file a charge for sexual assault on Monday, although that has been widely reported by many media outlets. That assumption was made after Vermont State Police published a press release late Sunday night saying they would be seeking a sexual assault charge.
Due to Zachary’s age at the time of the alleged sexual assault, the judicial system requires that prosecutors file the sexual assault charge in Family Court- at least initially- and then request for the sexual assault charge to be transferred to Criminal Court.
According to Chief Gary Taylor, St. Albans Police has placed Zachary on unpaid administrative leave, and he was forced to turn in his gun, badge, and ID pending the outcome of the Department’s own investigation.
Zachary was released, at around 1 pm on Monday afternoon, from Chittenden County Correctional Center, where he was held since his Sunday’s arrest. Allen was released about 10 minutes later.
The kidnapping charge could result in a life sentence for the men, but each man also faces other charges totaling up to 26 years in prison. If the state also files charges for aggravated sexual assault against Zachary, that could also carry a penalty of imprisonment up to life.