Town manager explains traffic incident

On Dec. 9, 2012, Officer Jason Lawton stopped Rod MacIver for crossing the center line and possibly running a red light. After a heated exchange, Officer Lawton issued a ticket to Mr. MacIver for running the red light. I became aware of the incident on March 7 when I received a call from Mr. MacIver wanting to know why I had not responded to his earlier emails. I explained that, to my knowledge, I had not received any emails from him but would check with the Town’s IT Manager to see if they had been received. The Town’s server had not allowed them through but they were then released to me. When I received the emails, I told Mr. MacIver that I would review the incident and get back to him. Although it would be easy to prove that I did not receive them, Mr. MacIver stated that “the reason that you did not see it is because you did not want to read it.” I should have known at that point what type of a person that I was dealing with. It seems that thereafter, Mr. MacIver chose to make this a vendetta against the Town and Officer Lawton.

After I reviewed the incident, I wrote a long email to Mr. MacIver in which I apologized for Officer Lawton’s unprofessional attitude when stopping him in December and the lack of proper supervision in this case. That was not sufficient for Mr. MacIver. Throughout this unfortunate incident, Mr. MacIver has used terms such as “pattern of abuse,” “habit of denying adverse facts,” “by the time I get done, you’ll find the police department easier to manage,” (comment on his website) “It is my hope that this website follows Sgt. Fortin and Officer Lawton around for the rest of their careers as police officers,” and “I promise you that if you are not truthful under oath I will be relentless.” It turns out that according to Seven Days newspaper, Mr. MacIver has been involved with multiple lawsuits during his lifetime.

In the last issue of the Shelburne News, the article on this issue stated that “Lawton then testified under oath that MacIver ran the red light.” The transcript of the March 6 hearing is clear that Officer Lawton did not testify under oath that MacIver ran the red light. Lawton testified as to what he thought that he saw that night in December, but upon review of the dashboard recording, he offered to dismiss the ticket before the hearing started. Officer Lawton could have dismissed the ticket but, as an inexperienced officer, was unsure of that process. When Officer Lawton offered to dismiss the ticket, Mr. MacIver wanted to go to the hearing.

Shelburne residents can be assured that its Police Department remains one that properly serves the public. If isolated incidents occur, they are dealt with in an appropriate manner. This incident was an aberration and, while one that I am not proud of, has taken on a life of its own that is not deserved. The Department and I receive very few complaints about our Department but many compliments. We always offer to meet with the person complaining and generally have satisfactory outcomes.

The Chief, Jim Warden, and I welcome comments about the operations of the Police Department.

Paul Bohne, Shelburne Town Manager

Editor’s Note: The testimony from the official transcript of the court proceedings on March 6 may be read in its entirety below.

IN THE VERMONT SUPERIOR COURT JUDICIAL BUREAU STATE OF VERMONT, Case No. VCVC 2741447 Plaintiff, Burlington, Vermont against March 6, 2013 RODERICK W. MACIVER, 2:47 PM Defendant

TRANSCRIPT OF TRAFFIC TICKET HEARING BEFORE THE HONORABLE HOWARD A. KALFUS, SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE

APPEARANCES:

JASON P. LAWTON, Officer, Shelburne Police Department
RODERICK W. MACIVER, Defendant, Pro Se

(Proceedings convened at 2:47 PM)

THE COURT: Robert Davis.

MR. DAVIS: Yes.

OFC. JASON LAWTON: Your Honor, I haven’t had a chance to talk to the 2:30 block.

THE COURT: Okay.

OFC. LAWTON: If I may have a few minutes?

THE COURT: Sure. If you want –

OFC. LAWTON: It should be really quick.

MR. MACIVER: Am I able to ask a procedural question? Nothing specific to my case.

THE COURT: Sure.

MR. MACIVER: Can I ask the officer questions?

THE COURT: Yes.

MR. MACIVER: Okay. And is it appropriate for me to read the statute to the officer or you?

THE COURT: Generally, the statutes aren’t read into the record.

MR. MACIVER: Ah-huh? Okay.

THE COURT: I would assume the officer –

MR. MACIVER: So is that a no?

THE COURT: I’m sorry?

MR. MACIVER: It’s not permissible for me to do that? It’s very short.

THE COURT: Sure. Oh, you –

MR. MACIVER: It’s a Vermont statute.

THE COURT: Oh, you certainly can, yes. I’m not prohibiting you from reading the statute.

MR. MACIVER: Okay. Thank you.

THE COURT: Okay. You’re welcome.

(Pause)
THE COURT: We’re going to take a brief recess.

THE CLERK: Please rise.

(Judge Kalfus exits courtroom at 2:52 p.m.)

THE CLERK: Thank you, sir, you may have a seat. Sir, are you — did you request the video?

MR. MACIVER: Yes, I did.

THE CLERK: Yes. The DVD. Thank you.

(Pause)

MR. MACIVER: Do you know if it’s possible for me to ask that the officer hold the control and stop it where he sees me commit the offense?

THE CLERK: It’s your evidence, sir. We could watch it a few times. You could do it and –

MR. MACIVER: I can stop it? Okay.

THE CLERK: I’m going to give you the controllers. Did you play this at home?

MR. MACIVER: I did.

THE CLERK: Did it work?

MR. MACIVER: Yes. I have the computer I played it on. I wasn’t able to get it to go on a Mac, but it did go on a PC.

THE CLERK: Did it go on a TV DVD player?

MR. MACIVER: No.

THE CLERK: That’s our problem.

MR. MACIVER: It’s the Town of Shelburne’s video system.

(Pause)

THE CLERK: Why don’t these play on regular DVD?

OFC. LAWTON: It only works on computers.

THE CLERK: Interesting.

OFC. LAWTON: Want to talk to me outside?

MR. MACIVER: Not really.

OFC. LAWTON: I’d like to talk to you outside, if you’d step outside.

(Parties exit courtroom at 2:54 p.m.)

THE CLERK: Glad I lugged this upstairs for nothing.

(Parties re-enter courtroom at 2:55 p.m.)

MR. MACIVER: You can’t say you saw something different when you didn’t.

I’m creating a Web site for the Town of Shelburne.

THE CLERK: Sir?

OFC. LAWTON: I hope you do.

THE CLERK: First of all, you need to tone it down a little bit. This is a courtroom, okay? You can have a seat and we’ll call your case shortly.

MR. MACIVER: You’ll be able to read all about it.

OFC. LAWTON: Excellent. I hope so. I don’t understand what the problem is, if your ticket is being dismissed.

MR. MACIVER: You pulled me over in the middle of the night for no reason and lied to me. Then Sergeant Fortin lied to me. This is going to go on a long time. Whenever anyone types Town of Shelburne into their computer –

OFC. LAWTON: I look forward to it.

MR. MACIVER: – this video is coming up –

OFC. LAWTON: Okay. You tell the judge that.

MR. MACIVER: – and your testimony under oath.

OFC. LAWTON: All right.

MR. MACIVER: And Sergeant Fortin’s e-mail in which he lied to me.

OFC. LAWTON: What does his e-mail say?

MR. MACIVER: Pardon me?

OFC. LAWTON: What does his e-mail say?

MR. MACIVER: It says he saw me commit a violation on the DVD. He did not. He lied to me to try to get me to accept the charge.

OFC. LAWTON: You know what, I’m not going to dismiss the ticket anymore.

MR. MACIVER: Good. Absolutely wonderful.

(Pause)

OFC. LAWTON: Actually, it kind of sounds like that’s what you want. You want an argument, right?

MR. MACIVER: No, I don’t want you stopping people in the middle of the night for no reason.

OFC. LAWTON: You want an argument, right?
MR. MACIVER: I don’t want you — I don’t –

OFC. LAWTON: You’re not going to get your –

MR. MACIVER: – want you –

OFC. LAWTON: – argument. Okay? I’m dismissing your ticket, so don’t worry about it.

MR. MACIVER: Okay. Well, we’ll see you and Sergeant Fortin in court, then.

THE CLERK: All rise, please.

(Judge Kalfus enters courtroom)

THE COURT: Thank you. Please be seated.

Okay, Mr. Davis, if you’d come up to this table, please?

(Judge takes up Davis case at 2:57 p.m.)

(Judge takes up Maciver case at 2:59 p.m.)

THE COURT: Okay, Mr. Maciver?

MR. MACIVER: Yes, sir.

THE COURT: This is the State of Vermont v. Roderick

W. Maciver, docket 2741447.

Mr. Maciver is present and is not represented by counsel at this time. Prosecuting Officer Jason Lawton is also present. The State’s attorney is not present. I gather there will be a hearing in this case?

OFC. LAWTON: There will be, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Okay. And I also understand that, although we do have a TV, that the video in question doesn’t play on the TV?

OFC. LAWTON: No, Your Honor. They play on computers, and I have a copy and have the computer.

THE COURT: Okay. All right. Well, let’s — let me begin first, Mr. Maciver, by explaining the hearing process. And Officer, while you were out, Mr. Maciver had some procedural questions. He was basically — the two questions that he asked were, first, whether or not the — he could ask questions of you; I indicated that he could. And he also asked whether or not he could read the statute into the record, and I indicate that he could, as well.

OFC. LAWTON: That’s fine.

THE COURT: Okay. So Mr. Maciver, the State bears the burden of proof. As such, Officer Lawton will present the State’s case first, and then you’ll have an opportunity to present your case afterward, okay?

MR. MACIVER: Thank you.

THE COURT: You’re welcome.

Will you both please raise your right hand to be sworn in by the court officer?

RODERICK W. MACIVER is duly sworn.

OFFICER JASON LAWTON having been duly sworn, testified as follows:

THE COURT: And also, Officer Lawton, the conversation, by the way, that I had with Mr. Maciver is on the record.

OFC. LAWTON: Okay.

THE COURT: It was being recorded.

So, Mr. Maciver, you can have a seat.

Officer, your case, please?

DIRECT TESTIMONY

OFC. LAWTON: Your Honor, I would just like to say that I offered to dismiss the ticket, and he refused, so  that’s why we’re here.

THE COURT: Okay.

OFC. LAWTON: So I was — my name is Officer Jason Lawton, currently employed by the Shelburne Police Department, and certified by the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council as a full-time law enforcement officer. On the night of — excuse me, the morning of December 9th, 2012, at approximately 0017 hours in the morning, I was sitting at the red light at Allen Road and Shelburne Road in the Town of South Burlington. I observed a truck approaching southbound on Shelburne Road to the same intersection. I observed the light to turn red, and that truck — the vehicle to be completely behind the white line, and go through the intersection.

I proceeded out on the green light after the vehicle. Observed the vehicle to be weaving within its own lane. I checked further operation for suspicion of DUI and stopped him approximately two miles away from that intersection. I explained to the operator why I stopped him, identified him as Roderick — how do you say your last name, sir?

MR. MACIVER: Maciver.

OFC. LAWTON: Maciver. He became upset and, you know, couldn’t understand why I stopped him so far away from the intersection. Asked if I was smoking pot and said that – he actually requested a ticket so I could stand in front of you and tell you what happened. So that’s why he was issued a ticket.

THE COURT: Okay. And so I believe your testimony was that you observed the light to be red for southbound traffic on Shelburne Road?

OFC. LAWTON: It was red for north and southbound, but the vehicle was travelling southbound.

THE COURT: Where were you?

OFC. LAWTON: I was on Allen Road waiting to turn left onto Shelburne Road.

THE COURT: Okay.

OFC. LAWTON: So I’m stopped at the red light.

THE COURT: Right. I understand. Can you explain the sequence of events from the time that you arrived at the intersection in terms of the lights and the traffic?

OFC. LAWTON: As to where the lights are in the intersection? Or what do you mean?

THE COURT: As to what you observed. I mean, lights change colors.

OFC. LAWTON: Yes. Right.

THE COURT: So I want to know what — I want to know from the time that you got there what you saw.

OFC. LAWTON: Okay. At the time I got there, both north and southbound lanes were green. I had the red light, obviously, because I’m stopped. And I observed the lights turn yellow, then red. The vehicle entered into the intersection at that point.

THE COURT: Okay.

OFC. LAWTON: Coming southbound.

THE COURT: And you were able to see the northbound and southbound light, even though you were –

OFC. LAWTON: I was, yes.

THE COURT: – at the — on the intersecting street.

OFC. LAWTON: The southbound lights are at the opposite side of the intersection, so I have a clear view of the light.

THE COURT: Opposite end of the intersection? The south end of the intersection?

OFC. LAWTON: The south end; yes, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Okay. Was Shelburne Road open to the general circulation and flow of traffic at the time?

OFC. LAWTON: Yes, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Okay. Thank you very much. Mr. Maciver.

RODERICK W. MACIVER having previously been duly sworn, testified as follows:

DIRECT TESTIMONY

MR. MACIVER: Yes. So it was midnight. I was travelling down the road, speed limit, approximately. The light turned orange prior to me entering the intersection. It was orange when I went through the intersection. Turned red just as I exited the intersection. I drove approximately two miles down the road. I changed lanes in the interim. Put on my blinker to change lanes. The officer sped up behind me, put on his flashers. I pulled over, and he walked up to me and said, “What’s up with the red light?” And I said, “What red light?” And he said, “The red light that you just went through.” And the — I was upset. It was the middle of the night. I was stopped for no reason. I’ve never gone through a red light in my life. I try to be a very careful driver. I felt that the man was on a fishing expedition. I know enough about the law that a police officer needs probable cause to pull somebody over. That there’s, you know, all kinds of law behind that. And I got upset and I said some things that I shouldn’t have said.

But right after being pulled over, I went to the police department and filed a complaint against the officer for charging me with a violation that he knew I did not commit. He did it because he didn’t like my attitude. Police officers are not allowed to do that. So Monday morning, Sergeant Fortin, the officer’s superior, contacts me and says he saw the video and saw the violation occur.

I immediately sent a letter of apology to Officer Lawton for my unkind and inappropriate words, and told him that, in my — I am grateful for police officers pulling people over that are going through red lights. I would never deliberately do it, and I was sorry. I asked Sergeant Fortin for the video. He told me I had to send a letter to obtain it. I sent a letter. No video was received. I contacted the police department. They said to me that, in order to get the video, you have to send in forty-five dollars. I sent in forty-five dollars. No video was received. I had to repeatedly phone and e-mail to get it. When I get it, it’s very clear I did not go through the red light. Officer Lawton outside just said to me — can I enter that? Can I say a private conversation or is that not appropriate?
THE COURT: Well, I generally don’t want to hear about settlement negotiations.

MR. MACIVER: Okay. So we don’t — you’ll see the film. I mean, it’s very obvious.

THE COURT: Okay.

MR. MACIVER: I mean, the law is clear. And I’d like to — I said to the officer, “Are you willing to swear under oath that you saw me go through a red light in front of the judge?” and he said, “Yes.” He lied to me.

THE COURT: He lied to you?

MR. MACIVER: He lied to me. He didn’t see me go through a red light. He didn’t like my attitude, so he gave me a ticket for that, and I’m extremely unhappy about it. I’m particularly unhappy because Sergeant Fortin tried to cover it up, and it makes me think that there’s a pattern of abuse in the Shelburne Police Department that’s totally inappropriate. They’re pulling people over for no reason, and then they’re lying about it to try to cover it up. I’m sorry if I’m upset now. You know, I just don’t feel it’s appropriate.

THE COURT: Excuse me.

MR. MACIVER: So I’d like to get the officer’s testimony under oath, if I can, and ask him some questions.

THE COURT: Well, he just did testify under oath and you can certainly ask him some questions.

MR. MACIVER: Now?
THE COURT: Yes.

MR. MACIVER: Thank you.

CROSS-EXAMINATION BY MR. MACIVER:

Q. So how do you account for the video being so dramatically different from your recollection of events?

THE COURT: Well, Mr. Maciver, perhaps it would make more sense to watch the video first.

MR. MACIVER: Okay. Wonderful.

THE CLERK: Well, we may not be able to, Your Honor. I can’t get it to play.

MR. MACIVER: The officer can play it on his computer.

THE COURT: Well, the officer has got it on his.

MR. MACIVER: Or I can play it on this computer.

THE COURT: Yes.

MR. MACIVER: So –

THE COURT: Let’s — so you have one?

MR. MACIVER: Or that computer, probably.

THE CLERK: Sir, please –

MR. MACIVER: I’m sorry, excuse me.

THE CLERK: It’s not playing.

THE COURT: Okay. Well, we can play it on any one of the three laptops.

THE CLERK: Which one would you like to — thedefendant’s?

THE COURT: Yes. Let’s put it on defendant’s, and then I’ll ask — Mr. Maciver, if you would please approach the bench, Officer Lawton, that way we can all watch.

MR. MACIVER: Would you like to place it in the appropriate place, or –

THE COURT: Here, you can — you can put it right up here.

MR. MACIVER: Excuse me, I need to — I usually use a mouse, and so I’m a little clumsy with this. So when it’s typed –

THE COURT: Can you please turn it a little bit?

MR. MACIVER: I’m sorry.

THE COURT: That’s okay.

MR. MACIVER: Is it viewable now?

THE COURT: It is.

Officer, can you see it?

OFC. LAWTON: I can see it, yes.

MR. MACIVER: I played it twice last night.

THE CLERK: That’s what it did for me.

MR. MACIVER: Oh, there we go. I guess it was just loading.

(Video playback at 3:09 p.m.)

THE COURT: Well, I’d like to see it again, but it looked to me like the light was still yellow when he entered the intersection.

MR. MACIVER: Would you like me to play it again?

THE COURT: I would, please.

MR. MACIVER: And then he said later I was wavering across the white line, too. I don’t know if you want to see that, but –

THE COURT: Well, why don’t we — no. So let me tell you what I — it looks to me like the light turns yellow right there, enters the intersection, and then it turns red.

OFC. LAWTON: It appears that way, Your Honor, but that’s not what I saw that night.

THE COURT: Okay.

OFC. LAWTON: So — I explained to him that, based on the differences from what I saw and from what the video shows, that that’s why the State would be willing to dismiss the ticket, and he didn’t want any of that, so that’s why we’re here.

THE COURT: Okay. You can — you can take that out.

MR. MACIVER: Stop it now?

THE COURT: Yes, please.

THE CLERK: And take it out, please, sir.

MR. MACIVER: Take it out.

THE CLERK: Yes.

MR. MACIVER: Okay.

(End video playback at 3:10 p.m.)
MR. MACIVER: I’m sorry.

THE COURT: And that will be admitted as Defendant’s Exhibit A.

(Cruiser video recording was hereby marked for identification and received into evidence as Defendant’s Exhibit A, as of this date.)

THE COURT: Okay, you’re all set.

Officer Lawton, did I understand you to say in this matter that, because of the discrepancy between what you recalled seeing and what you saw in the video, you’re willing to dismiss?

OFC. LAWTON: Yes, Your Honor. I was willing to dismiss it before when I talked to him, but he was not willing to accept it, so –

THE COURT: Is it because you previously viewed the video and realized that the light hadn’t turned red until he was already in the intersection?

OFC. LAWTON: I noticed the discrepancy because I viewed it before I came here.

THE COURT: You had viewed the video before you came in, and you observed at that time that he entered the intersection before the light turned red?

OFC. LAWTON: Correct.

THE COURT: Can you please explain to me why you testified under oath that the light had turned red before he entered the intersection?

OFC. LAWTON: I testified to what I saw that night.

I didn’t — the opportunity had not come up to explain the discrepancy within the video.

THE COURT: You later learned that what you believed you saw at the time was wrong?

OFC. LAWTON: Correct. You know, my attempts to dismiss the ticket were not –

THE COURT: Officer Lawton, this has nothing to do with your attempts to dismiss the ticket. You testified under oath that, when Mr. Maciver entered the intersection, the light had already turned red.

OFC. LAWTON: I explained to you what I saw that night, Your Honor. The reason for the stop was what I saw. It wasn’t because of the video. The reason for my dismissal was because of the video.

THE COURT: I understand that you were willing to dismiss, but I’ve got grave concerns about the fact that you didn’t tell me that you were willing to dismiss because you later saw the video and saw that you were wrong.

OFC. LAWTON: My apologies, Your Honor.

THE COURT: I’m rendering judgment for the defendant based upon the evidence. There will be no penalty imposed. Mr. Maciver, please be aware that the State has the right to appeal this decision. Officer Lawton, that appeal needs to be filed by April 5th.

MR. MACIVER: May I ask a couple of additional questions since we’re all here?

THE COURT: No. No. I’ve concluded the hearing.

MR. MACIVER: Thank you.

THE COURT: Thank you all.

MR. MACIVER: Could I get my video, please?

THE CLERK: No, sir, it’s admitted into evidence.

THE COURT: No, that’s in evidence.

MR. MACIVER: I paid for it.

(Proceedings concluded at 3:36 PM)

CERTIFICATION

I, Janice D. Badeau, the court approved transcriber, do hereby certify the foregoing is a true and correct transcript from the official electronic sound recording of the proceedings in the above-entitled matter.

One thought on “Town manager explains traffic incident

  1. Mistakes were made on many levels. Admit them. Show up in court. Pay the man $2,000 for his time and trouble. Move on.

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