COURT WATCH: Complaining Witness Charges Vermont ‘Too Lenient’ after Judge Sentences Accused to Probation, Community Service

By Leela Bronner

BURLINGTON, VT – During a sentencing hearing last week in Chittenden County Superior Court, Judge Kevin Griffin sentenced a man accused of stealing more than $900 worth of merchandise to community service and probation, despite the argument of the complaining witness for prison time and complaining Vermont has been “too lenient” with criminals.

The accused accepted his charges of felony retail theft and pleaded guilty to stealing more than $900 worth of merchandise over two separate occasions from a local business. The accused was ultimately sentenced to 100 hours of community service as a condition of probation. 

Deputy District Attorney Ryan Richards read aloud impact statements from the business owners who claim the state of Vermont has been too lenient in the sentencing of criminals and that the court appears to “care more about criminals than victims.”

In a following statement to the court, defense attorney Harley Brown revealed the accused had been struggling with addiction and unemployment at the time the crime was committed. In addition, Brown alleged that they did not know how long the accused had left to live as he is currently battling a terminal illness.

The local business owners expressed a desire for the accused to be sentenced to extensive prison time and “kept out of the community” despite their observation that, oftentimes, time spent in prison seems to do little to stop criminals from reoffending after their release.

While Judge Kevin Griffin acknowledged the concerns of the victims and said that “it is getting increasingly harder as a judge to watch what’s happening,” he recommended “victims” become involved in the restorative justice process. 

According to the Restorative Justice Exchange, “If restorative justice is based on the idea that we are interconnected and woven together in humanity’s netting, then we must examine and actively address the underlying issues that lead to crime and the context in which it occurs.”

The exchange adds, “Restorative justice is best accomplished through cooperative processes that allow willing prisoners and victims to meet and explore topics such as personal responsibility and making amends. This can lead to the transformation of people, relationships, and communities.”

Amid the accused’s mental and physical challenges, Judge Griffin took into consideration that the accused had not offended again after the crime. 

The judge said he also considered the accused’s apology to the owners of the business and the testimony from the accused that he is improving his life in his ultimate decision to sentence the accused with probation and community service rather than jail time.

About The Author

Leela Bronner is a second year student at the University of Vermont, majoring in Psychological Science and minoring in Neuroscience and Law and Society. In continuing her education while working as an intern at the Davis Vanguard, Leela aims to gain valuable insights on the intersection of the legal system with mental health institutions. She hopes to make an impact on criminal justice and prison reform while pursuing a career in investigative work or psychological research. In her free time, Leela enjoys anything creative, spending quality time with others, and watching movies.

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