Grismore says impeachment committee member biased

Published: May. 24, 2023 at 5:58 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Should Vermont’s impeachment process be more impartial? The Franklin County sheriff under investigation for possible impeachment says one of the House investigators has already made up his mind.

Last August, surveillance video surfaced showing then-captain John Grismore kicking a handcuffed man in the groin at the Sheriff’s office.

following the release of the video, the Republican and Democratic Parties of Franklin County asked Grismore, a Republican, to drop out of the race Sheriff’s race. Rep. Mike McCarthy, D- St. Albans, even sent Grismore an email urging him to withdraw his candidacy.

“I don’t understand how any committee could select him as a member thinking that he could be unbiased. You can’t demonstrate prejudicial treatment against somebody and then just claim you can be unbiased because you say so. So, that’s problematic,” Grismore said.

McCarthy disagrees. He says his email to Grismore was merely echoing the feelings of his constituents. Now, in his role on the impeachment committee, McCarthy says they are just investigating the facts of the case and that the Legislature will make the final call. “It’s really going to be up to the House and the Senate to decide whether or not there should be an impeachment and removal from office. I think we are a little too early to worry about any individual person on the committee. This is really about finding facts, finding out what the truth is, and seeing if those facts warrant moving forward,” he said.

McCarthy says the process will last several months as they subpoena people and access investigative documents. They are also looking into financial dealings in the sheriff’s department before Grismore’s election.

Grismore says he’s confident and eager to prove his innocence. “I’m very happy to participate. They are not going to have to subpoena me to come down and talk. So, I’m very anxious to get this behind us and I think once they have the facts, it will be a pretty easy decision for them to make,” he said.

If the committee decides to bring articles of impeachment, they will first go to the House. If they pass by a two-thirds majority, there will be a trial in the Senate, where it will also take a two-thirds majority to impeach.

Vermont Law School professor Jared Carter says it’s important to remember this is not a criminal trial, but a political one, especially when it comes to impartiality. “There aren’t the same sorts of issues you’d have. Wherein a criminal trial, if a judge or a member of the jury had spoken out against a defendant, that person would have to recuse themselves, that person wouldn’t be able to participate. The same thing doesn’t apply in the context of an impeachment,” he said.

Carter says it might feel a little like a criminal trial but ultimately it’s up to the lawmakers to decide if wrongdoing should result in impeachment.

Meanwhile, Grismore still faces simple assault charges for kicking the man in custody.

The House impeachment committee is also investigating Franklin County State’s Attorney John Lavoie over alleged racist and sexist comments toward employees.

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