NEWPORT - Green Mountain Power (GMP) has reached a settlement agreement with local journalist Chris Braithwaite.
GMP will pay Braithwaite $22,500 to cover his legal expenses for the defense of the criminal case he faced as a result of an alleged trespass onto GMP property. That case was dismissed.
Braithwaite's civil suit against GMP will be dismissed with prejudice. GMP says this is the quickest resolution to the case and is not admitting any wrongdoing.
Braithwaite, the 68-year old publisher of the Chronicle of Barton, was arrested Dec. 5, 2011, while covering a protest on Lowell Mountain. Protesters of GMP’s industrial wind farm were on the ridge line and had moved onto the crane path to block construction workers from advancing. Braithwaite was covering the protest and did not leave when protesters were being arrested, despite being ordered to do so by law enforcement. He said he needed to witness the arrest in order to do his job properly. In order to witness the arrest, he had to be on GMP property.
Braithwaite was facing trial when the case was dismissed after internal GMP emails, subpoenaed by Braithwaite’s attorney Phil White, revealed that GMP had not wanted Braithwaite arrested. However the state said the case was dismissed because a key witness, GMP’s Dave Coriell, who was on the mountain that day during the protest, was unable to testify.
After the case was dismissed, Braithwaite brought suit against GMP for legal fees incurred in his criminal case, which he said totaled more than $20,000 for the year as he awaited trial.
Braithwaite issued the following public statement: “Information provided to me by Green Mountain Power has led me to conclude that David Coriell was acting in good faith and may not have received the directive (not to arrest Braithwaite) from GMP at the time of my arrest on Lowell Mountain on December 5, 2011. In my capacity as a reporter, I worked with David over a three-month period while he was director of community outreach on Green Mountain Power's wind project. Our relations were professional and cordial, and I appreciated that he was doing a very difficult job under very stressful circumstances, as was I. The payment of $22,500 fully covers my legal fees and is a fair resolution of this matter.”
Dotty Schnure, spokesperson for GMP, said Tuesday the settlement is the quickest way to resolve what would have been a long and expensive litigation process. Schnure said she was confident that GMP would have prevailed in the case, but said that settling quickly is in the best interest of its customers. The settlement is absolutely not an admission of wrongdoing on the part of GMP, Schnure stated. “Civil cases settle all the time to avoid long and costly litigation.”
She added that the entire incident could have been avoided if Braithwaite had called GMP to let them know he was going to be there that day. Schnure has also said that Coriell must not have received the message not to arrest Braithwaite because cell coverage was spotty on the mountain and made communication difficult.