Vermont police charge sheriff candidate for kicking prisoner

Oct 21, 2022, 10:39 AM | Updated: 12:34 pm

A fired Vermont deputy who is the only candidate on the November ballot to become sheriff of the county where he served was charged Friday with simple assault for kicking a shackled prisoner, authorities said.

John Grismore, 49, of Fairfax was cited on the charge Friday through his attorney. He is due in court Monday in St. Albans to answer the charge, said Vermont State Police in a news release.

Surveillance cameras recorded the prisoner being kicked on Aug. 7. In the Aug. 9 primary, Grismore won the nomination of both Franklin County’s Republican and Democratic parties to have his name on the November ballot for sheriff. But after the video became public he was suspended and then fired by outgoing Franklin County Sheriff Roger Langevin.

The county Republican and Democratic parties gave their support to a write-in campaign by Sheriff’s department Lt. Mark Lauer, a 27-year Vermont State Police veteran who has been at the department for nearly a decade. Gale Messier is also running a write-in campaign. He spent decades in law enforcement including 20 years at the sheriff’s department in Chittenden County, Vermont’s most populous county.

On Friday Grismore said in an email that “the story is still the same” and he had nothing new to add.

But in a subsequent message, Grismore said he was “surprised and dismayed” the results of the state police investigation had been referred for prosecution as misdemeanor simple assault. He said he continued to maintain he used the minimum amount of force necessary to prevent the prisoner from spitting on him and the other deputies, he said.

“Although this latest step is unfortunate, I look forward to the opportunity to definitively, once and for all, clear my name,” Grismore said. “I fully believe in our criminal justice system, having served within it for the better part of 25 years, and I am confident that once all the facts are exposed, I will be promptly and completely vindicated”

Early voting is well underway in Vermont, with mail-in ballots already distributed.

Messier said Friday that the the charge was a good thing.

“You can’t be a bully, you’re a police officer,” Messier said.

Lauer said Friday he had no comment.

The Vermont Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs has said that if Grismore wins and takes office the only mechanism to remove him would be impeachment by the Legislature.

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Vermont police charge sheriff candidate for kicking prisoner