ACLU lawsuit claims Bennington Police violated man’s constitutional rights

Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 4:35 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 19, 2023 at 8:00 PM EST
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BENNINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The ACLU of Vermont is suing the Bennington Police Department, claiming officers violated a man’s constitutional rights by arresting him in the 2016 armed robbery of two convenience store workers even though he says there was no evidence linking him to the crime.

The complaint filed Tuesday alleges that Bennington police interrogated and searched John Chinnici in 2016 after they named him as an accomplice in an armed robbery, and excluded other more plausible suspects. They also accuse the department of pressuring witnesses and suspects into naming Chinnici, even though the ACLU says Chinnici did not match the witness descriptions and was not connected to the crime.

Chinnici was convicted but that conviction was eventually thrown out.

“The story that it presents is a law enforcement culture that is extremely abusive and does not act with regards to constitutional limits on their authority and is willing to engage in deceptive tactics, in this case, to go after our client,” said James Lyall, the executive director of the ACLU of Vermont.

Chinnici has maintained his innocence.

The ACLU hopes the lawsuit will prompt legislation to end the use of misleading tactics by law enforcement and keep incidents like this from happening again.