Dean's Corruption in the Green Mountain State

by Josh Frank

Dissident Voice

September 18, 2003


William Sorrell met Howard Dean twenty-five years ago, when Sorrell's mother introduced the two during a neighborhood gathering. Grandma Sorrell was a Democratic Party loyalist, and an activist to boot.  At the time, her son William was a rookie state attorney, and Howard a young doctor with political aspirations.  They connected immediately. Both had hopes of climbing among Vermont's elite, where they could flaunt their power freely.


In 1983, shortly after the two met, Dean was voted into the Vermont House of Representatives, where he served for 3 consecutive years.  By 1986 he became the state's Lieutenant Governor, and in 1991 took over Vermont's top job when acting Gov. Richard Snelling died unexpectedly.


It wasn’t long before Sorrell started benefiting from Dean’s unexpected job promotion.  A year after stumbling into the Governor's mansion, Dean made Sorrell Vermont's Secretary of Administration.  Three years later Dean was back at it, selling his man again. This time for the Chief Justice position of Vermont's Supreme Court.


Unfortunately for Dean, his strategy backfired, and Sorrell's name was scratched from consideration due to his lack of judicial experience.  But that didn't stop the Governor from appointing Sorrell to be Vermont's Attorney General - which happened in 1997 when Dean bumped his buddy into the uncontested slot.


They’d finally made it big.  Dean as Governor, and Sorrell as Vermont's chief law enforcer.  However, with power often comes greed, and ulterior motives plagued both their professional paths.


It seems these two cronies had a mutual disdain for the judicial process from the start.  In the same year Sorrell was appointed Attorney General, Dean was quoted in a Vermont Press Bureau interview as saying that he believed quick convictions were just, and that legal technicalities should be overlooked during the prosecution of criminal and civil cases.  He even said he was willing to appoint people to high positions who interpreted the Bill of Rights the same as he -- with a knack for overlooking the Bill’s particulars.


For the last two years, Sorrell has embraced Dean’s ludicrous interpretation of our hallowed Bill of Rights - defending the concept that the state has the right to banish a citizen in perpetuity, simply because they have exercised their first amendment right to criticize the government.  With no trial or conviction necessary for banishment.


And currently awaiting hearing before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, is the undisputed fact that two Vermont Prosecutors, William Wright and John LaVoie, exchanged a favorable criminal plea for the dismissal of a civil suit that was filed against themselves.  In layman's terms, LaVoie and Wright accepted a bribe in order to rush through their own case.  Quite a pecuniary predicament these two County Prosecutors got themselves in.


To this day, Attorney General Sorrell has the authority to prosecute LaVoie and Wright, but refuses to do so.  His office has no comment on the issue. 


And Howard Dean claims to know nothing of the incident.


Sorrell’s breakneck justice doesn’t stop there.  On December 2nd 2001, environmental activist Robert "Woody" Woodward was brutally gunned down by police officers in Brattleboro, Vermont while attempting to seek sanctuary in a Unitarian church.  Witnesses say that Woodward was only at risk to himself, never threatening any of the parishioners.  He rushed in claiming the FBI wanted him dead.  Moments later three police officials stormed the church.  According to official reports, one officer immediately opened fire on Woodward.    Another officer then discharged his weapon into the air. 


The helpless Woodward fell to the ground, curled in the fetal position - and then was shot four more times.   In total, 7 bullets riddled his defenseless body.  Woodward suffocated in a pool of his own blood.


Only one day following the incident, Brattleboro PD issued their report, claiming the officers involved had done nothing wrong.  It maintained their use of force was justified, and their conduct professional.


Two investigative wings, one local and the other state, followed the Woodward case for several months - with state jurisdiction taking over in late 2002.   Attorney General Sorrell, head of the state investigation, time and again has stonewalled the Woodward family (www.justiceforwoody.org) attorneys; denying their lawyers access to documentation, and petitioning a federal court to ensure crucial evidence stayed in state hands.


When asked if Dean would ever appoint an independent investigator to look into the law enforcement’s misconduct regarding Sorrell and the Woodward shooting, Sue Allen, Dean’s ex-spokesperson had this to say for Dean. “The Governor has been reluctant to do that (appoint special investigators) in the past, and has a great deal of faith in the Attorney General. He read the report and was comfortable with the findings.”


It is official corruption at its zenith.  A Governor who won’t sell out his friend of over 20 years.  And an Attorney General whose interpretation of justice includes a murder cover up, and bribery.


If nominated by the Democratic Party, and successful at unseating Bush, it is a certainty that the venal Attorney General of Vermont will be chosen for a high post in a Dean Administration.  Perhaps even Attorney General of the United States.


“I have a long association with Sorrell,” Dean once said, “and I have an enormous amount of respect for Sorrell as a human being and as a really smart lawyer.”


What does this have to say for Dean’s own intelligence and morality?  Not much.


Josh Frank is a journalist living in New York City. His work appears frequently in Impact Press and online at Counterpunch. He can be reached at frank_joshua@hotmail.com.


Other Recent Articles by Josh Frank


* Howard Dean's Constitutional Hang-Up: Dean Would Rather Execute an Innocent Man, Than Let a Guilty One Walk Free

* Candidate Dean: A True Regressive

* Dennis Kucinich: Democrat in the Fray

* Greens Looking for a Winning Strategy

* Disrobing Dubya