NEWPORT – The man accused of crushing six sheriffs’ cruisers and a transport van with a huge tractor was in court Friday.
Roger Pion, 34, sat in shackles and restraints in Orleans Superior Court next to attorney David Sleigh. Pion, held at Northern State Correction Facility in Newport, did not enter a plea but had to appear before a judge within 24-hours of his arrest.
He will enter a plea at his arraignment on Tuesday.
Court personnel scrambled to find a judge Friday morning. Finally, Judge Howard VanBenthuysen joined by phone. He set bail at $50,000. The state wanted Pion held without bail. If Pion makes bail, he would be released into the custody of his father, Armand Pion, and have several conditions of release including a curfew, not to possess a firearm, and not to harass the Orleans County Sheriff's Department. Pion is facing many years in jail and large fines.
On Tuesday, Pion will also answer to a charge of possession of marijuana and resisting arrest from a separate incident that occurred on July 3.
A source related to Pion said his father owns farm equipment and works for area farmers, and that Roger Pion works with him and has access to the equipment.
Friday, Pion drove a red Case MX255 full size tractor that has eight tires into the sheriff's department parking lot, lined up seven vehicles, rolled over them monster truck rally-style, then backed over them again. He apparently moved a civilian vehicle out of the way and it sustained only minor damage.
Fortunately, no one was in the vehicles and no firearms, located in the trunks, were discharged. The damage, estimated at between $250,000 and $300,000, included the vehicles, cages, firearms, radios and radar equipment.
No one in the sheriff's department heard the ruckus outside; they were alerted after a witness called 9-1-1.
That afternoon, two Newport City Police officers were in the area not far from where the red tractor was headed after the rampage. The officers followed the tractor in their cruiser, according to an affidavit by Detective Trooper Lyle Decker with the Vermont State Police. Pion allegedly looked back and saw the police cruiser behind him. He allegedly stopped the tractor and began to back up towards them. The cruiser then backed up, hitting a car behind it.
The Newport officers got out of their vehicle and approached the tractor with guns drawn. Pion was taken into custody without incident, according to the affidavit. A loaded handgun was found in Pion's possession during the arrest. Pion was taken in for processing but did not make a statement, according to the affidavit.
No person was reported injured in the incident.
Pion is facing 13 charges including several counts of unlawful mischief, aggravated assault with a weapon, reckless operation of a vehicle, leaving the scene of a crash, impeding a public officer, and committing a crime with a weapon.