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November 01, 2010

Roadside DUI Video Shows Salmon Humbled, Yet Defiant

SalmonDUI A roadside video released last week shows that Auditor Tom Salmon not only asked a Vermont State Trooper if he knew he was the  state auditor — an office similar to the governor and lieutenant governor — but also questioned why he was being handcuffed.

After being arrested for driving while under the influence last November, Salmon told reporters he wanted no special treatment and would take his punishment like any Vermonter should. He pled guilty, lost his license for 90 days and paid court fines.

He also told reporters he had five drinks that night — two red wines, two scotches and a coffee liqueur drink. He told the trooper — at least twice — that he had only two red wines through the course of the evening.

You can watch 12 minutes of the roadside video here. The file depicting first six minutes of his stop would not convert to YouTube. What appears in this 12 minutes is his sobriety test and initial arrest. There is additional video released last week that includes his time at the Middlesex barracks where he was processed.

The roadside video became public after Burlington attorney John Franco — a longtime Progressive and supporter of Salmon's Democrat-Progressive opponent Doug Hoffer — sued to get the video released. He argued that Salmon's DUI video was a public record, as it was a record of his initial arrest.

DPS Commissioner Tom Tremblay refused to release the Salmon video, stating that because it was part of a criminal investigation that it was not a public record. Aspects of a criminal investigation can be kept secret.

Franco argued that Tremblay was playing political favorites by releasing a traffic stop video involving Sen. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, but not Auditor Salmon, a Republican.

Franco also admitted that his pursuit of the video was, in part, political. "I think it reflects on his judgment," said Franco.

Perhaps, but I doubt this video will win Hoffer any votes. In fact, I predict it will be just the opposite. I suspect Salmon will pick up some sympathy votes thanks to the video's release and Hoffer may lose votes given his close association with Franco.

In Shumlin's video he can be heard chattng up the trooper — noting that perhaps the rookie officer could be driving him next year once he was elected governor. Shumlin also handed the trooper his Senate ID card, and not his driver's license, when he was initially pulled over. Many observers read into this exchange that Shumlin was trying to get out of his ticket by promising the trooper a job as his personal driver — or showing his Senate ID as a way to perhaps curry favor.

However, during his roadside sobriety test Salmon repeatedly dropped hints that he was an elected official, or at least a prominent state employee.

Salmon struggled with the dexterity tests — failing to follow the trooper's finger with only his eyes (he kept moving his head) and couldn't walk heel to toe or hold up one foot and count slowly. Salmon repeatedly told the trooper his legs were "like rubber" or "rubbery" because he was nervous.

In the seconds before Trooper Brandon Doll administered the roadside breathalyzer test, Salmon asked, "You know I'm the state auditor, right? I'm like the state treasurer, governor and lieutenant governor," said Salmon.

"I understand sir," replied Doll. "I'm just doing my job."

Salmon then agreed to the breathalyzer.

The roadside breathalyzer recorded Salmon's blood alcohol content at .095. The state legal limit is .08. Later at the state barracks, Salmon's BAC was recorded at .086 — just barely over the legal limit.

After he learned of his BAC, Salmon told the trooper "OK, tell me what to do and I'll be ... I'll be part of the solution."

It was then that Trooper Doll placed Salmon under arrest and drew his handcuffs.

In the video, Salmon briefly questioned the need to be handcuffed.

"Oh come on, you're not going to cuff me. You're not gonna ... I'll go anywhere you want," said Salmon. 

The trooper then asked Salmon, again, to put his hands behind his back. "Sir, I'm asking you," the trooper repeated twice.

"I understand who you are," the trooper then said.

"I'm not anybody. Tonight, I'm just a Vermonter," replied Salmon. "You're just doing your job. You're on mission. I spent nine months in Iraq and it was mission oriented and you're on a mission and I respect that."

After placing Salmon in the car, the trooper turned to a Montpelier police officer and said, "He says he works for the state or the governor or something — he threw that card out a few too many million times."

Later, during the drive to the Middlesex barracks Salmon apologized for trying to pull rank: "I want to apologize for that kind of 'Do you know who I am' stuff. It wasn't appropriate."

"No it was not," replied the trooper. "But I appreciate the apology."

The arrest came nearly one year ago as Salmon was heading home to St. Johnsbury after celebrating several office promotions and a pay raise at an undisclosed Stowe restaurant. Salmon repeatedly refused to reveal the name of the restaurant to the media, and even hedged during his interview with state police.

At one point during his processing at the barracks, Salmon burped in the first two minutes of a 15-minute observation period before he could take a second, court-admissable, breathalyzer test. The trooper was not pleased as he had warned Salmon that any burping or vomiting would require them to start the 15-minute clock all over.

Trooper Doll told Salmon that if he did this more than once, the officer would consider that action the equivalent of refusing to take the breathalyzer.

As he awaited taking a second breathalyzer test at the barracks, Salmon at one point, speaking to no one in particular, reflected on his situation: "Everything happens for a reason."

This story obviously isn't getting enough traction if you're posting stuff like this the day before the election. At least not the right kind of traction - I'm sure the use of this type of tactic by the Hoffer campaign hasn't escaped notice.

I'm sure you didn't get around to watching the copy of the video that Franco gave you on Thursday until now, right? Maybe we'll see that story about Hoffer calling Burlington Telecom "we" and claiming that "we're fine" two years ago, when he clearly knew otherwise, on Wednesday. Talk about poor judgement - and in a context where it actually means something.

There is no context here - just one point of view. This really is a sad position for the Democratic Party to put themselves in - is this the kind of tactic we have to look forward to from them?

When can we expect to see this up on I assume Brian Dubie should be all over this since he is positioning himself as the defender of all things ethical.

Also interesting to note that Salmon was out celebrating office promotions and pay raises for his staff that night... while the governor was demanding everyone from the school janitors to staff in Montpelier take pay cuts as well as facing sever layoffs. Yet somehow Salmon's office managed to find some loose change in the count to give a number of significant pay raises to his staff. Funny how that happend. I guess that can be entry number 2 on If you need help getting that website set up just ask Brian "I promise to run the cleanest campaign Vermont has ever seen" Dubie for help. Apparently he's an expert.

Salmon is such a tool. It's really amazing he's gone so far in politics, because he just isn't very bright. Apparently a last name will take you far in VT politics.

The guy who mentions that he's the State Auditor when pulled over, or the guy who regularly throws name-calling tantrums on local blogs - who's the bigger tool? If Salmon had run ads with choice "Hofferisms" then voters would be deciding that very question. As it stands, only one side took the low road.

Shay, can you elaborate on this bit: "The file depicting first six minutes of his stop would not convert to YouTube."

According to who? Do you personally have the whole video and can't get the first 6 minutes to convert, or is that something someone told you? Can I help with this in some way?

Just use the same method you used to upload Shumlin's dashboard video. Oh yeah, you didn't post that one. Hmmm

Right Jimmy... a speeding ticket and a drunk driving arrest are the same thing. They deserve equal treatment.

This issue is about the law: what is and isn't public. Yes, it came from the left, but if the tables were turned I'd still think it was justified. This is how laws and policies get tweaked.

"a speeding ticket and a drunk driving arrest are the same thing."

Yeah, there was nothing more to that Shumlin story than the fact that he was speeding. Put more than five seconds into a response next time, genius.

It's pretty amazing that 7D can't wrangle one clever or intelligent person to defend them on their own blog.

@Chill: the story you're talking about is the one that Totten has already written a few times. This blog entry is just shameless perpetuation of one of the most shameful moves in Vermont political history by the Hoffer campaign.

Jimmy: As I noted in my column last week & in this blog post, the last-minute release of this video will hurt Hoffer, not Salmon. I think people can see through that.

I will add, though, that this video contradicts what Salmon said publicly after his arrest last year — both in terms of the number of drinks he had that night & not asking for special treatment. That's why I posted this 12-minute segment.

As for Shumlin's video. You're correct. I didn't post the video itself, only a link. When I wrote a brief item about it when the news first broke, I linked to WCAX's news story and the full video for anyone to watch. (

I've also linked back to that same video and news story in blog posts here & in my column when writing about the attempt to void Shumlin's ticket.

"That's why I posted this 12-minute segment."

Is that also why you posted a long blow-by-blow, including exactly how many times Salmon burped? Your segment doesn't include the "two drinks" bit, and WPTZ posted an excerpt that covers the "special treatment" bit, so I'm not sure how that justification works.

It's also interesting that you don't mention Salmon's explanation of his "I'm the State Auditor" comment that he posted a few days ago. That's understandable, though - it's on his campaign site, and who the heck knows how to find that?

Not sure how this statement on his website really explains his reasoning.

From Salmon's campaign site: "You know I'm the auditor, right?" (I am not going to run away or need handcuffs).

It's certainly not the way the trooper took his repeated statements about where he worked, who he was, etc.

And, the current claim doesn't jive with Salmon's actions that night. Salmon later apologized to the trooper saying it was inappropriate for him to make those "do you know who I am?" statements. The trooper agreed.

If you're interested in those other segments, I'll be happy to post them for you once I figure out why some segments of the DVD are not working on my video software.

Look, we all know Shay has it out for Salmon, ever since Salmon took Shay to the woodshed. Shay has been trying to get even ever since, and this dumb story only hurts Hoffer, the democrats, and Shay's credibility as a 'real' journalist. Shay, aren't you tired of carrying water for the progs and the Democrats?

My point was clearly not that I need to hear him say he'd had two drinks. As that was reported by the BFP four days ago, I was already aware. It was that your rationale for posting the video was invalid.

What do you mean "explains his reasoning"? That's redundant. He's providing his explanation of why he said what he did. "Repeated statements" in this case means two, and given when he made them in the sequence of events, his explanation makes total sense. Regardless of whether you believe it, his one line explanation of events is obviously relevant to the story, and something that any journalist would have included.

Your intent in posting this is so obvious, why don't you just cop to it? Why bother with a provably false justification? "I posted the video and didn't include Salmon's one line statement on it because I just wanted to stick it to him" is so much more credible than "I wanted to illustrate some things I didn't illustrate and/or that other people's videos illustrated days ago, and I didn't think anything Salmon had to say about it was as important as the details about the burping."

By the way, just in case anyone coming here is interested in some real news, Burlington Telecom missed their payment deadline today. That means the CitiCapital can legally take it over if they want to.

"We're doing fine and will work out the problems." - Doug Hoffer on Burlington Telecom, 4/18/08

If this hurts Hoffer & the Dems, why are the right-wingers so upset about it?

They were not upset about the coverage of Shumlin's speeding ticket. They didn't claim that the coverage was going to cost Dubie votes. They pushed that story & shouted about it for weeks ... and they'll continue shouting about it for a long time.

When an elected official is arrested for DUI, lies to a State Trooper & asks for special treatment ... it should be reported in full. You can be angry about it (and it is interesting to see how angry the right-wingers are -- about everything.) But this is legitimate news.

The Shumlin video was requested by news outlets because it was current news. This video was requested by the Hoffer campaign days before the election, despite the fact that it happened a year ago.

It was a scummy move for the Hoffer campaign to acquire this video and release it to the press at all. It was more scummy to wait until just before the election to do it. And it was ultra scummy of 7 Days to hold it for four days until the DAY BEFORE THE ELECTION to post it to youtube and write a sprawling blow-by-blow of it.

See the difference? Of course you do.

@ Holy Oversimplification/Holy OverlyPartisan:

"Right Jimmy... a speeding ticket and a drunk driving arrest are the same thing. They deserve equal treatment."

Umm . . . are you really gonna argue that speeding isn't dangerous? Potentially lethal to the speeder and to others? If not, why is it illegal?

Let's actually support Shumlin for speeding and trying to influence the officer. It proves he's more deserving to be governor that the Republican.

Cut the ridiculous crap, you pathetic partisan hack.

You should write for Seven Days on a regular basis.

A year ago we didn't know that Tom Salmon lied to the police officer.
A year ago we didn't know that Tom Salmon asked the officer for special treatment.
These facts are obviously newsworthy.

It's Interesting that the right-wingers aren't upset that Salmon had 5 drinks and got behind the wheel of a car. They aren't upset that he lied to the police officer. They aren't upset that he asked the officer for special treatment.

But they sure are are angry that someone would report on it!

Golly, Salmon asked not to be cuffed and fudged his drink count. He immediately apologized for the former, and told the truth about the latter in a presser days later when he absolutely didn't have to. What a monster.

John Franco could have asked for that video a year ago. He could have asked for it three months ago, when his buddy was gearing up to run against Salmon. And 7 Days could have written this blog post four days ago, when they got the video.

This episode reveals far more about Hoffer and his campaign (Franco) and his supporters (Totten/7D) than Salmon.

Touche (To Shay) Jimmy!

Not much left to say

No matter which party or candidate you suppport, it might be a good idea to adopt two reforms:

1. No more special license plates for elected reps, the ultimate "do you know who I am".

2. Change the ID cards so that they don't resemble a driver's license.

Tim, the 'official' reason that they have special license plates is because there is a state law that says that a legislator can not be pulled over by a cop if the legislature is in session and he/she is going to Montpelier to vote.

If a person with a legislative license plate is pulled over (and the legislature is in session), the first question they are asked is 'are you on your way to the statehouse for a vote?' if the answer is yes, then they are free to drive off.

Note that the legislator is not immune from prosecution if they are speeding or breaking other laws. They just can't be held up by the police. Legislators are, from time to time, mailed tickets for speeding while en route to the statehouse.

There are stories of law enforcement officers attempting to interfere with floor votes in the state house by pulling over key lawmakers. The plates are designed to prevent that.

This is the story that legislators will tell you if you ask them why they get the special plates. Of course, the real reason has to do with privilege, ego and status.

Guess the last-minute video stunt worked out for Hoffer, huh?

Sean: I've been saying for weeks that I didn't think the video stunt would benefit Hoffer. In fact, I expected it to backfire and not hurt Salmon nearly as much as some in the media were predicting.

Despite 7D's best efforts, Hoffer gets his ass handed to him, and Salmon never had to go negative. Pretty impressive.

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