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Freak incident partially blinds bar patron - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Freak incident partially blinds bar patron

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Tiffany Rivera Tiffany Rivera
BURLINGTON, Vt. -

"It's a felony simply because of the reckless conduct," Burlington Deputy Police Chief Shawn Burke said.

Ruben James is a popular sports bar that morphs to a busy club in the heart of Burlington's nightlife scene. Court papers show on Feb. 19, a lovers' quarrel there left an innocent bystander partially blind.

"What's really concerning is, by all accounts, this girl was simply standing in a bar when the girl arrested threw a glass across that bar," Burke said.

The victim, Laura Myers, told police she was waiting outside the bathroom at RJs when she tried to break up a fight between one of her friends and Tiffany Rivera. They were arguing over a mutual boyfriend. That's when Myers says Rivera "chucked a glass at her face." Myers was "covered in blood" and "a piece of eye was now missing."

Earlier this month, prosecutors charged Rivera with aggravated assault.

"Enter a plea of not guilty," Rivera's lawyer, Leroy Yoder, said in court.

Rivera claims throwing the glass was self-defense and she didn't mean to hurt anyone. But we found out it's not the first time she's been arrested for a crime like this at the same bar.

"Oftentimes we'll see people, like this, time and time again involved in these assaults downtown," Burke said.

We discovered the cops were called to RJs 54 times in the last year for everything from lost property and compliance checks to fights and drunks. Police say that's not unusual for a downtown bar.

Burke said, "What a bar has to evaluate, though, is how much security do they have? Is it enough to prevent incidents like that? How do they go about training their staff?"

We called RJs and asked to speak to the owner. He declined to answer any of our questions about whether this incident will change security at the bar.

"Miss Rivera has no convictions in Vermont," Yoder said.

But back in October, we learned Rivera was arrested for allegedly beating her ex-boyfriend outside RJs. A large crowd gathered as police tried to pull her off the man. She has a clean record because those charges are still pending and another criminal case was dropped.

"It's a little bit concerning that Ms. Rivera just had a disorderly conduct last month which was dismissed by the state," Vt. Superior Court Judge Dennis Pearson said.

Still, the judge let her go-- again-- with orders she leave the victim alone while she waits for her next court date.

"That really speaks to the judicial system in Vermont, right? It's not uncommon to have Vermonters on the streets pretrial conditions of release charged with felonies or misdemeanor crimes against persons," Burke said.

Which begs the question-- if Rivera had been kept behind bars, would Laura Myers still be able to see? Doctors are trying to save her eye but multiple surgeries later her dad tells police that's unlikely.

Rivera's next court appearance for both barroom incidents is May 15.

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