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EXCLUSIVE: Veteran reporter: there's "a total lack of respect for the court system”

By Michael Bielawski

Veteran Vermont reporter Mike Donoghue joined the Morning Drive to talk about the top news stories of the year and when asked what the biggest headlines were for 2023, Donoghue did not hesitate to list crime and the rough economy that doesn’t help to mitigate it.

Crime and economy top stories of 2023

“I guess I’d have to say in the overall arching is crime, and the economy are probably the two biggest issues facing Vermont,” Donoghue said.

He continued, “When I talk about crime there are obviously several parts to it, the large uptick in the number of homicides especially since October we’ve had more than 10,” he said. “Some have been solved and some are more troubling like the one down in Castleton.”

He noted that drug trafficking is a really big part of the crime problem.

“It’s been really sort of violent times and related to that is a lot of drug trafficking, mental health issues, homelessness, all of these things are somewhat all intertwined and it’s something that the legislature is going to have to grapple with,” he said.

He suggested that lawmakers are going to have to come up with funds to address homelessness and mental health issues.


Co-host Anthony Neri commented that for a veteran reporter such as Donoghue to be this concerned is alarming.

“If you feel now that this is unprecedented and you’ve been reporting on it for many years…” he said.

Donoghue then said “I don’t think it’s unprecedented, I think it’s always been out there. Sometimes it hasn’t been addressed. … But I think the level of crime clearly has gotten beyond anybody’s [predictions].”

Neri said, “You’ve been close to it for a long time and it feels it’s never been like this.”

Lack of respect for courts

Donoghue responded “No I don’t think it has … What I’ve seen is a total lack of respect for the court system, the way it’s crafted it’s a catch/release system where if you don’t show up they give you another citation and tell you to come back in another couple of weeks. You don’t show up and they give you another citation. It’s just there’s no respect so when a judge says ‘I really mean this’ well it doesn’t really mean anything.”

He says that the public is starting to take notice.

“And they get released and the public keeps seeing these same people and one of the issues is they don’t even tell people when you go to court and they out you out on conditions, they don’t even order you not to commit any new crimes,” he said. “They can tell you that you have a curfew and they can tell you who you can live with. … That’s why these people keep coming back.”

He suggested that in Federal Court, the judges aren’t as lenient with repeat offenders. He said that if those who are let go by a federal court get in any kind of trouble again it is considered contempt of court.

“That’s the difference between the state and federal courts, the federal courts they don’t mess around,” Donoghue said.

Neri then asked how the courts got to this point.

“How do you think we got there? How do you think we got to a point where our state courts seem to be just these kind of revolving doors?” he asked.

This time the other guest host and political analyst Rob Roper responded. He said, “I think there’s a sort of experimental attitude of the folks who are in the supermajority, and on the Burlington City Council, and it’s a general political trend in the state isn’t really grounded in reality.

“And their policy seems to be if we just send out loving vibes to people then they won’t commit crimes. And if we don’t stigmatize people for shoplifting, they won’t shoplift. And if we don’t stigmatize people for drug addiction, they’ll seek help. And the reality is that all of that is wrong.”

The whole roughly 20-minute discussion between the three men can be heard here.

The author is a reporter for the Vermont Daily Chronicle


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