Police arrest Vermont sheriff on sexual assault charges

Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 12:42 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 28, 2022 at 7:27 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A Vermont law enforcement officer is in trouble with the law. The Addison County sheriff was arrested on Tuesday and charged with sexual and domestic assault.

Peter Newton, 50, of Middlebury, is accused of repeatedly abusing a 35-year-old woman he was dating.

Despite calls for his resignation, the sheriff maintains his innocent and remains defiant.

Vermont State Police arrested Newton Tuesday morning after a four-month investigation into his relationship with a woman who calls him a predator who used his position to pursue women. Newton is now charged with sexual assault, unlawful restraint and domestic assault.

“I’m still the sheriff,” Newton said in court in Burlington Tuesday afternoon, after pleading not guilty to charges of sexual assault.

He was arrested Tuesday morning in Middlebury after an investigation that began in March when police say they began to follow up on a domestic disturbance in February between Newton and the woman he was in a relationship with.

Police say in working with the woman, they learned that she felt Newton would cross the line sexually and physically. Court paperwork says Newton wouldn’t stop when she told him no and that no wasn’t an option. She said Newton exercised control over her with cocktails and said around 90% of their sexual interactions took place when she was intoxicated. She says he would also tell her when to take her medication. She says Newton kept nude photos and videos on his phone despite her asking him to delete them. She believes this is the same phone provided to him by the state. She says Newton abused his position and power to get women.

“It is often the perceived either actual or perceived imbalance of power. That prevents victims from coming forward,” Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault said.

Newton’s conditions of release include that he does not engage in law enforcement duties as sheriff going forward.

But asked if intends to resign, Newton said, “No.”

In a statement to WCAX News, the Vermont Sheriffs’ Association said, “We are grateful to have a system of justice that pursues allegations made against a law enforcement officer that works to hold them accountable.”

Newton was released Tuesday with conditions on a $100,000 secure appearance bond. The court also granted an extreme risk protection order. In court, it was made clear that Newton would not be running for sheriff again.

As an elected official, Newton remains in office and remains in charge of the Addison County Sheriff’s Department, despite the pending charges.

But there was a call Tuesday from another county official for Newton’s resignation. High Bailiff Dave Silberman said: " ... it is simply impossible for Sheriff Newton to continue serving the community in a law enforcement capacity under the cloud of these very serious charges.

Accordingly, I am calling for Sheriff Newton to immediately resign from office.”

The lead investigator in the case was assigned from the St. Albans barracks to avoid any conflict of interest. And the Washington County State’s Attorney’s Office reviewed the investigation because the Addison County State’s Attorney’s Office recused itself from the case.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the state police in St. Albans at 802-524-5993. You can also submit a tip anonymously online.

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