Proposed indictment elicits wrath across U.S.
Those are just a handful of adjectives that have been used to describe town residents after the Brattleboro Selectboard voted 3-2 to send a petition requesting the indictment of President George Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney to town voters for their approval or disapproval.
Since the board made its decision on Jan. 25, town offices have been inundated by e-mails, faxes and phone calls deriding the decision, the town and its Selectboard. Several staffers told the Reformer they have hung up on callers that have cursed at them because of the board's decision.
Read some of the responses, here.
"Most of them are against the petition," said Town Clerk Annette Cappy. "They do not favor the action. You would never be able to print publicly what they've written."
"Those e-mails and calls will be taken seriously," said Acting Chief of Police Capt. Eugene Wrinn. "If we can prove a crime of disorderly conduct by use of the phone or disorderly conduct by electronic means, we will charge someone. If people are threatening or harassing the town clerk or Selectboard we will see what we can do."
If any of the language in the correspondence crosses the line into harassment or threats, it could result in federal charges, said Tom Anderson, U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont.
Using e-mail or phones to leave threatening messages is a federal offense, he said, that could result in an FBI investigation. Local police can determine if they are threatening, he said, and then forward their concerns to the FBI.
Some of the comments sent to the town manager's office might be deemed threatening by even the most impartial observer.
"If you pass the measure ... you and all members of your town must be considered 'Enemy Combatants' by me and every member of the armed forces, active duty, reserve or veteran," wrote James Stone, no location given. "If you try to undermine the respect due to the office of the president ... I will have no other choice but to defend my country. This is not a threat. It is my duty."
"Maybe the terrorists will do us all a favor and attack your town next," wrote Brent Caflisch, of Rosemount, Minn. "Our country would be much safer with several thousand dead wackjobs in Vermont. Or maybe they could just kidnap Chairwoman Audrey Garfield and board members Richard Garant and Dora Bouboulis, cut their heads off, video tape it and put it on the Internet. Now that I would like to see."
Cappy said some of the comments have her worried for the safety of the staffers in Brattleboro's Municipal Building.
"My staff has talked about it today and we are a little concerned about the response."
During its Jan. 25 meeting, Town Manager Barbara Sondag appeared to be warning the Selectboard when she asked "How many more of these things do you want Brattleboro to become famous for?"
While Sondag said she was not worried about the safety of town staffers or the town itself, she posted a comment on the town's Web site explaining the board's vote.
"Reasons given by board members voting in the affirmative centered on the belief that if a petition contained the required signatures, the voters should have the opportunity to vote on the matter," wrote Sondag. "Reasons given by board members voting on the dissent centered on the belief that articles outside the scope and authority of the town should not go before the voters of the town."
In addition, she wrote, "The Brattleboro Town Attorney has stated that the petition has no legal standing, as the town attorney has no authority to write an indictment and the town police department has no authority to attempt an arrest of the President of the United States."
The town will vote on the petition on March 4.
Not all of the e-mails were derogatory toward the town.
"Arrest Bush and Cheney?" asked Ron Healy, no address given. "You go, Brattleboro!"
"Good for you," wrote Laurence Topliffe of Iowa. "They both should spend the rest of their lives in prison or on a deserted island."
Responses to other issues before the town in the past -- including a petition to urge impeachment of Bush and Cheney and an ordinance that banned nudity in Brattleboro -- didn't reach this level, said Cappy.
"This is far outnumbering anything else," said Cappy. "I have never gotten this much e-mail except when the civil unions were passed."
Most of that correspondence, however, was in favor of the decision, she said.
Bob Audette can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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