BY MAT CLOUSER
BRANDON — For the last two months, the town of Brandon has been awash in fear and speculation surrounding the actions and safety of Shane Bartshe, a client of Rutland Mental Health Services (RMHS), who has had repeated legal and mental-health-related interactions with the Brandon Police Department (BPD) and emergency services, including the alleged sexual assault of a caretaker at his residence (owned by RMHS) in 2019, and the recent statement of his desire to rape one of the Brandon Free Public Library’s (BFPL) librarians.
The latter situation spawned safety concerns for Brandon residents and BFPL staff alike and caused a brief closure of BFPL due to staffing shortages after the librarian expressed apprehension about returning to work until stricter security measures could be put in place, or Mr. Bartshe could be relocated. The library re-opened on August 16 with a new security plan and a host of volunteers charged with keeping watch for Mr. Bartshe, who is legally barred from BFPL and has a restraining order from the aforementioned librarian.
However, all that could change soon, as it was revealed last weekend that Bartshe—who was arrested on August 12 by BPD for disorderly conduct after blocking the roadway in front of his residence on Franklin Street—was no longer living in Brandon.
The latest revelation—obtained through a series of emails between Acting State’s Attorney Ian Sullivan, Brandon town officials, BPD, BFPL, and RMHS CEO Dick Courcelle —brought with it more questions than answers, particularly surrounding the conditions and potential duration of his absence, as well as new development stemming from a July 7 felony aggravated assault on law enforcement case in Rutland where Mr. Bartshe was also said to be obstructing a roadway.
In an email sent on August 25, Mr. Sullivan—whose only interactions with Bartshe come through Bartshe’s legal counsel due to several pending cases against him—offered the following: “Mr. Bartshe’s defense attorney recently sought to continue a hearing. The defense attorney asserted that Mr. Bartshe was in a crisis bed in another county. I do not [know] how long he will be in a crisis bed.”
“Assuming the crisis bed is temporary,” Sullivan continued, “Mr. Bartshe would likely return to the community at some point, although I do not know (and no one is under any obligation to tell me) where he will go whenever the crisis bed ends.”
In an email sent the same day, BPD Chief David Kachajian wrote, “Our department was just advised by Nicole Desins, the embedded Mental Health Outreach Worker for the Vermont State Police, that Mr. Bartshe is no longer living in the Town of Brandon and that he was accepted into a mental health program that is not in the immediate area.”
“No specific location was provided due to HIPAA confidentiality,” he continued, “but it does appear that he is no longer in the Rutland County area. I hope this information is helpful and that it brings at least a little peace to the employees at the library and those in our community who have had to endure the issues that his behavior has caused recently and in the past”.
Friday, on behalf of RMHS—which has yet to make a public statement of any kind—Mr. Courcelle echoed and refuted some of the information that Sullivan and Kachajian provided.
“A misunderstanding appears to have resulted from the police department’s conversation with Ms. Desins… it is true that our client is not, as of this writing, in Brandon; this is not a permanent placement. We fully expect that he will be returning to his Brandon apartment. He will be returning at some point to collect his belongings, but it is also possible, if not likely, that he will be returning from his current, temporary residence to his Brandon apartment,” wrote Courcelle.
“It is impossible to know when that may be, as we are currently managing his needs day-to-day with dynamics outside our control,” he continued. “It was stated that our client is in a crisis bed in another county. This is inaccurate. He is located outside of Brandon at present, but he has not been in a crisis bed.”
On Monday afternoon, Mr. Sullivan sent a new email detailing the conditions of release following separate arraignments involving Mr. Bartshe regarding his 2019 sexual assault case and the felony assault case from July 7.
“In the felony assault on law enforcement case, my office sought to hold the defendant without bail, pursuant to 13 V.S.A. § 7553a. Our motion and accompanying exhibits are attached to this email,” wrote Sullivan. “Ultimately, after hearing arguments from the State’s Attorney’s Office and Mr. Bartshe’s attorney, Judge Fenster preliminarily denied the request and will set the matter for a weight of the evidence to make a final decision.”
According to Mr. Sullivan’s email, Judge Fenster did, however, add more stringent conditions of release than were previously given to Mr. Bartshe, including:
- A 24/7 curfew—a legal term amounting to home confinement, except for medical appointments, legal appointments, or while with his care provider—that would not change if Bartshe were admitted to a residential program outside of Rutland County;
- Mr. Bartshe’s inability to possess “dangerous or deadly weapons;”
- Language stating that Mr. Bartshe shall not engage in violent or threatening behavior. Violent behavior includes physical contact with another without consent, unlawful restraint of another, or physical contact by “mutual affray”—a legal term for fighting that does not include self-defense; threatening behavior includes conduct that would cause “a reasonable person to fear unlawful sexual conduct, unlawful restraint, bodily injury, or death, including verbal threats, written, telephonic, or other electronically communicated threats, vandalism, or physical contact without consent.”
BFPL Director Molly Kennedy expressed some relief at the recent developments pertaining to library and librarian safety, noting that community support has been a positive outcome from the past two months of tension and unease. However, it’s not currently enough to keep BFPL from changing course regarding security.
“[The current security plan] seems to be working, and our community has really stepped up to fill in the volunteer hours,” she said. “I’ve been humbled by this, although not surprised in the least. We will continue on this way until we get confirmation that [Bartshe’s] status is either appropriately supported or relocated. We’ll take it week by week, as we’ve been doing.”
As Kennedy noted, questions remain as to whether or not Mr. Bartshe is or will be receiving additional treatment from RMHS or any future program where he may enter into care. HIPAA restrictions make discerning that care extremely difficult.
According to BPD, Bartshe repeatedly expressed his unhappiness with his living conditions in Brandon and was thought, in some cases, to be acting out due to that displeasure.
As Chief Kachajian wrote in his August 25 email, “For his sake, I also hope that he does at least get into a situation where he gets the help, structure, and close supervision that he needs so that no one else has to re-live this same type of situation in another community.”
Questions still abound as to the sufficiency of care received by Mr. Bartshe while a client of RMHS, as well as what his future holds, and it remains to be seen if these changes will have a positive effect on him, Brandon, or whatever city or town he ultimately resides in—questions that might never be answered.
For now, everyone must wait and see.