Shelburne settles traffic stop court case

LISA SCAGLIOTTI
Correspondent

A traffic stop by Shelburne Police five years ago in Charlotte sparked a legal challenge that wound its way through state and federal courts, ending with a $3,000 settlement recently approved by the Shelburne Selectboard.

After a discussion in executive session at its May 14 meeting, the selectboard directed Town Manager Lee Krohn to sign off on the proposed agreement in which no one admitted to any wrongdoing and which signals an end to the case in court.

At issue was a traffic stop on Feb. 11, 2014 in which Shelburne Police Officer Jim McKnight pulled over Neil Beaudry of Waltham. That’s about where agreement ends on the details. Beaudry received a speeding ticket and was charged with Driving Under the Influence, court documents show.

Beaudry, who represented himself in the court proceedings, challenged both as well as his treatment, according to court documents. He contended he received what amounted to assault and excessive force and he alleged his right to due process was violated, court filings show. He named McKnight in the suit along with then-Police Chief James Warden and then-Shelburne Town Manager Paul Bohne. 

In his telling of the events of the traffic stop, McKnight wrote in his report of the incident that Beaudry “became unruly” when riding in the police cruiser and that he declined to cooperate with dexterity and breath tests, court documents show.

In the end, a federal judge dismissed all of Beaudry’s claims regarding the stop, his arrest, his treatment and the conduct of the police officers involved.

That ruling came on March 21 when U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss in Burlington decided in favor of the town, dismissing Beaudry’s complaint. 

Due to Beaudry’s self-representation, Reiss left open the possibility that Beaudry could revise his complaint and return to the court for further consideration.

Before that could happen however, Brian Monaghan, the town’s lawyer in the case, said it made sense to try to end the legal wrangling.

“We received a positive ruling from the court on March 21 and we expected the plaintiff would file another amended complaint,” Monaghan said. “We took the opportunity to come to a worthwhile settlement. We see this as an investment in ending the litigation.”

The settlement agreement was signed by all five members of the selectboard on May 14.

It states that both sides “have now agreed to amicably resolve all of their differences arising from” the case.

It says that Beaudry gives up his prerogative to further appeal and the town admits to no liability. The case also will be renamed to “Beaudry v. Town of Shelburne,” dropping the names of the individual town and police officials named in the earlier complaints.

“Nobody wanted this to drag on forever,” Monaghan said. Indeed, the settlement language says “that this agreement is reached for the sole purpose of avoiding protracted and expensive litigation.”

The town’s insurance company, the Vermont League of Cities and Towns Property and Casualty Intermunicipal Fund, has covered legal costs in the case, Monaghan said.

Town Manager Lee Krohn explained that the insurer will pay $500 of the settlement with the rest coming from town funds because the policy has a $2,500 deductible.

Reached Wednesday, Beaudry said he agreed to the settlement to end what has been a time-consuming effort on his part.

“I didn’t have the money to hire a lawyer,” Beaudry said. “The case was important, however, as a way to hold police accountable. I didn’t profit at all.”

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