Troopers plead not guilty to reckless endangerment in use-of-force case

Published: May. 30, 2023 at 11:25 AM EDT
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BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (WCAX) - Two Vermont state troopers pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of reckless endangerment in connection to a use-of-force incident last summer in Newfane.

It comes after a judge last week rejected additional simple assault charges against troopers Ryan Wood and Zachary Trocki, saying there was not probable cause to support the charge filed by the Vermont Attorney General’s Office.

The arraignment for Sgt. Ryan Wood and Trooper Zachary Trocki lasted only a couple of minutes. Both pleaded not guilty to reckless endangerment. The charge stems from an incident in Newfane where a man, acting erratically, fell off a roof after being hit by a bean bag round fired by one of the officers.

Despite last week’s ruling that there was not enough evidence to support the simple assault charge, prosecutors Tuesday told the judge the AG’s office was planning to re-file the charge.

David Sleigh, Wood’s attorney, says both counts are unfounded. “If you get another affidavit, I don’t know what it would say that would change things,” Sleigh said.

After the hearing, Assistant Attorney General Rosemary Kennedy declined an interview. “No comment, I think the AG will issue a press release later,” she said.

That release issued by Attorney General Charity Clark justified the decision to charge the troopers saying the victim was more than 70 feet away from anyone and posed no immediate danger. “Excessive use of force is the exception rather than the norm in Vermont, but when police use of force is not justified, there needs to be accountability,” Clark said in the statement.

But Sleigh says the case sets a dangerous precedent and hampers law enforcement’s ability to do its job. “I think there is enormous harm to charging police officers with crimes in situations where the facts are either unclear or simply inadequate to support a criminal charge,” he said.

Both Trocki and Wood are on paid administrative duty. We reached out to the Vermont State Police for comment on the case however all of our questions were referred to the Attorney General’s Office and the Vermont Troopers Association.

In a previous statement, the Vermont Troopers’ Association said the troopers were performing their duties in good faith and they should not have been charged.

The troopers have been assigned to administrative duties pending the outcome of the case.

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