WOMAN LEADS POLICE ON CHASE, CRASHES, GETS AWAY THREE TIMES

By Gregory J. Lamoureux
County Courier

ST. ALBANS: Vermont State Police say Melissa Labounty was behind the wheel Tuesday afternoon in Swanton when police tried to stop her for a moving violation. That’s when she took off at a high rate of speed, fleeing from the traffic stop.

Police tried to stop Labounty, who had a criminally suspended license, near the intersection of Woods Hill Road and Bushey Road before she fled, traveling towards St. Albans.

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FNESU VOTERS TO ELECT BOARD MEMBERS TODAY, SOME WILL ALSO VOTE ON BUDGET

Voters from the Northern Mountain Valley Unified Union School District gathered at the Berkshire Elementary School Monday evening to vote on articles from the floor as well as ask questions about items to be voted on today by Australian Ballot. Gregory J. Lamoureux, County Courier

By Gregory J. Lamoureux
County Courier

Polls are open for voters in six towns today to elect board members, and for some, approve a school budget.

The towns of Berkshire, Bakersfield, Montgomery and Sheldon (the Northern Mountain Valley Unified Union School District) will be voting on a $16.3 million school budget, as well as electing eight members to their newly expanded board.

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SOS: SCHOOL MEETING MAY HAVE VIOLATED LAW

Enosburgh’s Suzi Hull Casavant speaks about her belief that the meeting held Thursday evening at the Enosburg High School was called illegally.

By Gregory J. Lamoureux
County Courier

ENOSBURG FALLS: Many of the voters of Enosburgh and Richford who attended last Thursday evening’s meeting to determine details of a forced school merger were confused on the legality of the meeting. So much so, that Superintendent Lynn Cota spoke to the fact before much business could be conducted.

“We were told by the Agency of Education that Suzi’s motion was not valid,” Cota explained to voters, “Because she did not specify a date specific” in a motion at the February meeting, in Richford, intended to conduct the same business.

Suzi Hull Casavant’s original motion was to delay the action of the voters until a court had decided on the legality of Act 46.

That initial motion was denied by moderator Patrick Hayes, but later overruled by voters with a 2/3 majority.

Now, Will Senning, the Secretary of State’s legal mind tasked with municipal elections states the interpretation behind the State Board of Education’s ruling on the initial motion was incorrect.

Secretary of Education Dan French speaks to the voters of Enosburgh and Richford Thursday evening, assuring them that his belief is that the meeting being held is legal.

Senning explained to the County Courier on Friday, in a phone interview, the intricacies of the ruling, and according to Isabelle, because Suzi Hull-Casavant’s motion did not have a date to reconvene, the next meeting would have to be warned again.

Senning was clear though, that is does not invalidate the original motion to await a ruling from a judge before reconvening.

The ruling implies the Secretary of Education, Dan French did not have legal authority to warn or call the meeting before the judge’s ruling, which came out Friday, almost 24 hours after the meeting at the Enosburg High School was conducted.

Judge Mello threw out three of the six charges, finding the law constitutional, but also saying he did so expecting it to be lifted to Vermont’s Supreme Court for a ruling there.

As for Thursday’s meeting, legal or not, it will stand until and unless a citizen files in Civil Court, stating that their rights as a voter were violated, according to Senning.

“The Secretary of State’s office does not have any power to enforce (election laws),” Senning said, “That is left up to citizens to file a complaint on their own.”

As of Wednesday’s press date, no complaint had been filed, however, if one is filed, it is likely the meeting will have to be conducted all over again.

RICHFORD TEACHER FACES LEWDNESS CHARGE

Michael Horowitz appears in Franklin County Superior Courier, Criminal Division with his attorney Bud Allen, last month as he pleads not guilty to one count of prohibited acts.
Gregory J. Lamoureux, County Courier

Michael Horowitz, the former shop teacher at Richford High School is facing criminal charges and has been put on administrative leave following an investigation recently into inappropriate conduct with both students and teachers at the school.

According to court documents, Horowitz was initially accused by a student at the school who said he “grabbed” her butt during class.

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GRATTON: ‘I WAS EXTREMELY SCARED’

Ethan Gratton watches from the witness box as members of the jury exit the court room for a brief recess on Tuesday afternoon. Gregory J. Lamoureux, County Courier

By Gregory J. Lamoureux
County Courier

EDITOR’S NOTE: Some accounts in this story may not be suitable for all viewers. Disgresion is advised.

ST. ALBANS: Ethan Gratton, 28, took the stand Tuesday in his own defense of the fatal shooting that killed David Hill, and seriously injured Mark Brito on January 2, 2017.

Gratton’s testimony lasted almost three and a half hours Tuesday. It was the latest in a two week long trial for the Georgia man.

Gratton’s story didn’t change from the story that his attorneys have been spewing for the past two years, which was that Gratton was acting in self-defense when he fired upon Hill and Britto when the pair was loading a skidder onto a trailer outside the Gratton home.

Gratton testified that he first approached Hill out of concern for traffic safety, asking Hill to move his truck down the road to a safer location for loading. When Hill responded using vulgar language, telling Gratton he would load his skidder where ever he wants, Gratton said he went back into his home to watch from the front picture window.

That is, until Brito showed up with the skidder, pulling it into the driveway to turn around. This, according to Gratton, is when he went back outside to confront Hill about the use of the family’s driveway.

“I told him it was a private driveway,” Gratton testified, “and it wasn’t for commercial use.”

Gratton said Hill again used vulgar language, and again told Gratton he would be doing whatever he wanted. Gratton said he went over to the driver’s door of the truck and wiped the dust off the door to see if he could get a phone number for the trucking company.

“I wanted to report them to their company,” Gratton testified, “I wanted to let their boss know how they were acting.”

That’s when Gratton says Hill shouted, “You’re scratching my f**king truck!”

“That’s when I knew I was in trouble,” Gratton said, “So I ran back toward my driveway.”

Hill would follow, according to Gratton, ultimately punching the 28-year-old in the face, breaking his nose and numerous teeth.

Gratton testified that he doesn’t remember drawing his 40 caliber Smith and Wesson, but does remember hearing three of the five shots that hit Hill, before taking a couple of steps to the left, and shooting Brito as he ran towards Gratton.

Defense Attorney Kelly Green shows members of the jury photographs of the roadway outside the Gratton family home on Georgia Mountain Road during testimony from Ethan Gratton on Tuesday afternoon. Gregory J Lamoureux, County Courier

State’s attorney Jim Hughes pointed out that Brito had to run towards Gratton to get around the front of the truck if he were running towards his friend, David Hill.

“So running towards you is enough of a threat to get shot?” Hughes quipped. “He didn’t have a weapon, did he?”

“He also didn’t hold up his hands,” Gratton replied.

Testimony continued with Gratton explaining that he went to his truck to get a second gun, as he wanted to commit suicide. His truck was locked, so he went inside to get his keys. When he went back outside to get his 45 caliber Ruger from his truck, he went back down to the roadway to move Hill’s lifeless body out of the roadway in an attempt to delay any indicators for passing motorists that think something tragic had happened.

Gratton said he just wanted to give himself a few more minutes to call his mom to tell her what had happened before he took his own life.

“I tried to drag (Hill),” Gratton said, “He was too big, I could only drag him a few feet.”

“So you were going to drag (Hill) around the truck and leave his body in the ditch?” Hughes questioned.

“Yes,” Gratton replied.

Gratton would go back inside, but not before noticing a shell casing in the driveway near where he was shooting, picking up and pocketing the brass.

“Why did you pick up that shell casing?” Hughes would later ask on cross-examination.

“It was habit from shooting on the range,” he said.

When pressed by the defense team, Gratton said he was “extremely scared,” when Hill came after him, leading to the defense’s argument in the case.

Graton, who has had no previous criminal record, said he went inside the house to the kitchen sink, before ultimately going to the bathroom to better determine what on his face was bleeding.

Graton says he tried to contact his mother but she and his father would come home before he could successfully do so, preventing him from taking his own life.

Gratton would make his way down to the road, down to the family vehicle, where he handed over the gun he used to shoot the two men, to his parents. He didn’t tell them though that he had a second gun with him. When he was sitting alone in the back of the Gratton’s SUV, he hid that gun under the front passenger seat.

Gratton’s emotionally charged testimony is likely to leave a question in the jury’s mind as to the motive of the murder charge. Tomorrow the defense is expected to call Gratton’s medical doctor and a blood spatter expert to testify in the case.

Friday is the last day the trial is scheduled, although deliberation could run into the weekend, if needed.

GRATTON’S DEFENSE PRESENTS AN EXPLOSIVE SIDE OF SHOOTING VICTIM

Ethan Gratton confers with his defense team Tuesday morning in Franklin County Superior Court in St. Albans. Gregory J. Lamoureux, County Courier

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article contains language that may not be suitable for all readers, discretion is advised.

ST. ALBANS: The defense team for Ethan Gratton, 28, of Georgia began presenting their case to the jury this morning with five witnesses, four of which characterized one victim in the shooting as a volatile person with a temper.

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STATE RESTS IN MURDER CASE, DEFENSE ASKS FOR DISMISSAL

Defense Attorney Kelly Green shows the jury a crime scene photo Monday morning during cross examination. Gregory J. Lamoureux, County Courier

By Gregory J. Lamoureux
County Courier

ST. ALBANS: Prosecutor Jim Hughes ended his case against Georgia resident Ethan Gratton with gruesome scene photos, including one that depicted the mangled face of Mark Brito.

That photo, according to former Vermont State Trooper Matthew Johnson, was taken as rescue crews loaded Brito into an ambulance on January 2nd, 2017.

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GRATTON TRIAL: JUDGE LIMITS VICTIM’S TESTIMONY

By Gregory J. Lamoureux
County Courier

ST. ALBANS: A jury trial began this morning for a Georgia man who gunned down two men just after the New Year in 2017.

The incident happened on Georgia Mountain Road, resulting in the death of David Hill and seriously wounding Mark Brito. The pair were loading a logging skidder onto a lowboy trailer on the road near the driveway of the family home of Ethan Gratton, who shot Hill and Brito with a handgun.

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