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Howard Center disputes receiving wrong-way case from UVM - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Howard Center disputes receiving wrong-way case from UVM

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Is a key fact in the case against the driver in the wrong-way tragedy just plain wrong? 

The Howard Center now says it was never contacted about a psychological evaluation for Steven Bourgoin the morning of the crash. He's the man now charged with five counts of murder. The Howard Center's revelation directly contradicts what a state police investigator said in a sworn statement filed with the court:

Detective Ben Katz wrote: "I later called the Howard Center and learned they were called but did not screen {Bourgoin}."

Prosecutors Monday said they're sticking by the story they laid out with the court. According to that story, Bourgoin spent the morning of the crash waiting for care at UVM Medical Center before fatally smashing his truck into five teens that night. Investigators say Bourgoin could be seen entering and exiting the hospital several times on surveillance footage. They say a physician's assistant eventually saw him and contacted the Howard Center for a psych evaluation, but staff there never performed one.

The Howard Center has dodged Channel 3's questions for more than a week, but denied ever getting the case in a press release on Monday. Officials there declined to answer follow-up questions.

Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan says he stands by the trooper's story. "I met with Trooper Ben Katz this morning in my office. Trooper Katz' affidavit reflects what he believes he was told on the day in question," Donovan said.

"We want to assure that we are cooperating fully with the authorities who are investigating what took place, but because of federal and state privacy laws, we are prohibited from disclosing patient information to the public without the patient's prior written authorization," said Mike Noble, UVM Medical Center's Spokesperson.

Howard Center officials say Bourgoin is not and never has been a client. They say he's never been referred there, and they've never been asked to evaluate him.

Donovan says even if the detail is contested in court, it won't affect the second degree murder charges.

"This issue. This fact is not material to a second degree murder charge. It's not an element nor does it go to the element of a crime. And if the fact is in contention, it will be litigated at the appropriate time at the appropriate venue," said Donovan.

Defense attorneys say it could, but they're not done investigating. Ultimately it's the defendant's state of mind at the time of the crash that matters. They will want to see what Bourgoin told that physicians assistant at the hospital.   

Vermont State Police Col. Matt Birmingham said, “we are not commenting on specifics related to a homicide case that is currently being prosecuted by the State’s Attorney.”

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