BY JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Vermont State Police arrested Addison County Sheriff Peter Newton this Tuesday, June 28, on charges of sexual assault, second-degree unlawful restraint and domestic assault, stemming from a months-long investigation into allegations of abuse reported by a woman with whom he was in a relationship.
Meanwhile, Addison County High Bailiff Dave Silberman became acting sheriff while Newton was in custody, and in a statement (below) to the Addison Independent, called for Newton to immediately resign from office.
State police initiated their investigation into Newton on March 3, when detectives were assigned to follow up on a domestic disturbance reported to the Middlebury Police Department. The disturbance involved Newton, 50, and a person with whom he was in a relationship, according to a press release issued by state police. The disturbance had been reported during the early morning of Feb. 26 at Newton’s Middlebury home.
State police investigators conducted multiple interviews with the 35-year-old woman at the heart of the case and developed “probable cause for the offenses” for which Newton has been charged, according to the press release. The case’s lead investigator, Detective Sgt. Angela Baker, was assigned from the VSP’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations out of St. Albans in order “to avoid any potential conflicts of interest in pursuing the matter,” according to state police.
The state police investigation was reviewed by the Washington County State’s Attorney’s Office for a determination on the appropriate charges, state police said. The Addison County State’s Attorney’s Office recused itself from the case.
Newton was taken into custody Tuesday morning while he was conducting contractor work at a construction job site in Middlebury. Troopers involved with the arrest said Newton did not resist. Two police cruisers could be seen in front of his Middlebury home early Tuesday afternoon while an investigation of his place took place.
Newton was expected to be arraigned in Burlington on Tuesday, though details remained unavailable as of this writing. More details in the case will be revealed in the investigatory affidavit that will be released following Newton’s arraignment.
Newton announced this spring that he would not be running for re-election to a second, four-year term as Addison County sheriff. Currently, Republicans Michael Elmore of Addison and Ron Holmes of Middlebury are slated to face off in an Aug. 9 primary for the sheriff’s post. It remains to be seen whether the job will attract minor party candidates or independents, who have until Aug. 4 to file.
Per state statute, the county’s high bailiff must step in for the sheriff if that person is unable to fulfill their duties. Silberman issued the following statement about Newton’s arrest:
“This morning, Addison County Sheriff Peter Newton was arrested on charges of sexual assault, unlawful restraint, and domestic assault. Sheriff Newton is currently in police custody pending arraignment, scheduled for later today. Pursuant to 24 V.S.A. §333, I will serve as Acting Sheriff so long as Sheriff Newton remains in custody.
“Earlier this afternoon, I spoke with lead Deputy Sergeant Michael Elmore, whose duties include general administration of the Addison County Sheriff’s Department. Sgt. Elmore assured me that the ACSD will continue to provide all necessary services to the county during this difficult time.
“I anticipate that Sheriff Newton will be released from custody this evening after his arraignment, at which point, under state law, he will automatically resume his elected office.
“Like all people charged with crimes, Sheriff Newton deserves a presumption of innocence pending trial and conviction. However, it is simply impossible for Sheriff Newton to continue serving the community in a law enforcement capacity under the cloud of these very serious charges.
“Accordingly, I am calling for Sheriff Newton to immediately resign from office.”
Anyone with information that may be relevant to the VSP investigation of Newton is asked to contact the VSP Bureau of Criminal Investigations at 802-524-5993. Tips also may be submitted online anonymously at vsp.vermont.gov/tipsubmit.
The Independent and Reporter will have more on this story as details become available.