Shelburne Traffic-Stop Case Postponed Because Cops Failed to Show Up in Court
It looks like Rod MacIver will have to wait another month for his "day in court." The judge ordered a 30-day postponement in his lawsuit against the town of Shelburne and two of its police officers because they failed to show up in court on Friday morning.
As Seven Days' Charles Eichacker first reported earlier this week, MacIver is suing Shelburne and two of its cops after he was wrongfully issued a moving violation for running a red light. The 56-year-old Monkton artist and writer subsequently convinced a traffic court judge to dismiss his ticket after video from the police cruiser revealed that, in fact, he had not broken any law.
But MacIver is still demanding justice and has filed a $2000 lawsuit to make a point. He accuses the two Shelburne cops — Officer Jason Lawton, who pulled MacIver over in December 2012, and Sgt. Allen Fortin, with whom MacIver later filed a complaint about Lawton's conduct — of being "deliberately deceptive and dishonest" and alleges that they lied under oath about what was on the videotape.
Neither of the two cops, both of whom are named defendants, showed up at the small-claims hearing Friday morning in Burlington. Instead, the town sent Burlington attorney Colin McNeil, of McNeil Leddy & Sheahan, as its sole representative. MacIver told the court that he had received written and verbal assurances from Shelburne Town Manager Paul Bohne III that the officers would appear.
Chittenden Superior Court Judge Samuel Hoar granted MacIver's motion for a continuance, or 30-day postponement, and called the officers' absence "troubling." Noting that he didn't know how the case could be decided without their sworn testimony, Hoar further indicated that their absence from any future hearings would be "a mistake on the part of the town" and could potentially result in a "judgment by default" in favor of MacIver.
"There are interesting and substantial issues presented by this case," Hoar added. "As you can see by the presence of press here, there is public interest in this. Everyone involved would be best served by having a full and fair hearing of the facts...They just can't be without those folks being here."
McNeil, the town's attorney, declined to comment on the case until after the next hearing.
For his part, MacIver was disappointed that his claim couldn't be decided on Friday. However, he did explain how he settled on his claim of $2000 in damages: MacIver estimated that he's spent about 40 hours so far on this case, "and I felt that $50 an hour was a reasonable amount of money.
"And I wanted enough money to make a point," he added. "My problem is that they just want to ignore this and tell me they're too busy to deal with it. I wanted to create a scenario where they'll pay attention to it and take it seriously."
File photo by Charles Eichacker.