Addison County sheriff says he won’t seek re-election following national inquiry

Addison County Sheriff Peter Newton speaks during a press conference at the department’s headquarters in Middlebury in August 2021 on Wednesday. Photo by Alan Keays/VTDigger

Days after a VTDigger report revealed that Vermont State Police were investigating a ‘domestic disturbance’ at the home of Addison County Sheriff Peter Newton, it posted a rambling video online – which has since been removed – saying he would drop his re-election bid.

“Be with me through this,” Newton said at the start of the roughly 20-minute video posted to his Facebook page on Sunday. “It’s going to take a few minutes but I have a lot to say and get out.”

Newton cited several factors in deciding not to seek a second four-year term, including the stress of the position and growing fatigue from people he said were looking to “smear” his reputation.

‘Sheriff Newton not worried about State Police probe,’ read the words posted below the video link, which shows Newton talking inside a vehicle and holding a mug as he he looks in front of a camera.

Newton spoke in the video about past relationships and affairs he said he had, identifying individuals by name. He also opened up about the toll his past relationships and time spent working in law enforcement had on his mental health.

“I’ve been in law enforcement for 20 years. I’m exhausted, I’m tired,” he said. “The mere sound of sirens sometimes triggers my anxiety.”

Newton also named specific people he said played a role in and “leaked” information about the state police investigation to VTDigger, saying they were looking for him.

Middlebury Police responded to a call just after midnight on February 26 for a reported argument between Newton and a woman at her home. Middlebury Police Chief Thomas Hanley said responding officers did not find sufficient evidence to make any arrests.

Hanley said he asked Addison County State’s Attorney Dennis Wygmans to conduct a “third-party” review of the case, since Newton had worked for the Middlebury Police Department at one time. given.

Wygmans said he forwarded the case to the Vermont State Police to investigate and withdrew from the case, referring it to the Washington County State’s Attorney, Rory Thibault, to review the results of the state police investigation.

Thibault, contacted on Monday, indicated that the investigation was continuing.

Last week, state police only described the nature of the incident leading to the investigation as a “domestic disturbance.”

Newton, in an interview last week, denied any wrongdoing.

He also had a quick response at the time when asked if he would seek re-election.

“Absolutely,” Newton said.

In the Facebook video from the weekend, Newton said he had planned to serve another four-year term, but that was no longer the case. Newton said he would serve his current term, which he said runs until Feb. 1, 2023. Then, he said, he planned to go into business with his son.

“We will be building sheds, garages, little barns, he said, adding that he expected the work to include “pressure washing, coating, painting, small jobs renovation”.

He said he plans to endorse Michael Elmore, a sergeant with the Addison County Sheriff’s Department, to be the next sheriff in an election scheduled for November.

Dave Silberman is Addison County’s High Bailiff, a position that has limited duties in modern times. If a sheriff leaves office, the high bailiff may be called upon to hold the position until a new one is found.

Silberman said Monday he was sensitive to the stresses of the job Newton faces as sheriff, including those “caused by the kind of piling up of personal belongings and this long-running political feud with other players charged of law enforcement in the county”.

Newton was previously involved in a spat with the City Manager of Brandon and separately alleged fraudulent conduct in Vergennes.

Silberman also said he saw no indication that the sheriff’s department was not providing the services it should.

Newton, in the video, criticized VTDigger for its reporting on the police investigation, as well as an editor from Addison Independent, which also published the VTDigger story last week.

“They like nothing better than trying to ruin people’s lives with what might not be true,” Newton said.

Instead, he added, they should take a lesson from Michael Donoghue, a longtime Vermont reporter.

“I love this man,” Newton said of Donoghue. “He’s a good friend of mine.”

As of Monday morning, the video was no longer posted on his Facebook page, and Newton did not return phone calls to his office and cell phone Monday seeking comment. A person answering the phone at the sheriff’s department said Newton was on an appointment and would not be available.

Newton emailed reporters from VTDigger and Addison Independent later Monday afternoon in response to questions.

He didn’t answer any of the questions, but wrote that he would be doing an interview with Donoghue “soon.”

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