Vermont State Police Trooper Dylan LaMere pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Chittenden County criminal court to careless or negligent driving and giving false information to a police officer.
LaMere was charged on July 13, more than two months after an Essex police officer stopped his Jeep shortly after 3 a.m. on May 8 after LaMere was reportedly seen swerving on Susie Wilson Bypass in Essex.
LaMere told the officer who stopped him that he’d been distracted by an email on his phone that was dispatching him to a fatal accident, according to charging documents, before he was allowed to go on his way.
However, there had been no fatal accident and Vermont State Police had not dispatched LaMere for any reason that night, a follow-up Vermont State Police investigation found.
LaMere’s request for a voluntary unpaid leave of absence from the state police force was approved Tuesday morning, effective immediately, by Jennifer Morrison, interim commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Safety, according to Adam Silverman, spokesperson for the Vermont State Police.
In court on Tuesday, LaMere’s attorney, David Sleigh, filed a motion asking the judge to dismiss the charge that LaMere made a false report to law enforcement, saying “nothing the defendant said deflected any investigation of him.”
Vermont law forbids giving false information to police with the intention of implicating someone else or to “deflect an investigation” from oneself.
“You can lie to a cop anytime you want,” Sleigh told VTDigger. “It’s a crime to lie to deflect the course of an investigation.”
Sleigh’s motion stated that LaMere had already “arguably” confessed to negligent driving when he told the officer who pulled him over that he was on his phone while operating his vehicle. Sleigh’s motion argued that LaMere’s statements to police that night did not constitute an effort to deflect any investigation away from himself.
But Judge Gregory Rainville said he found probable cause to pursue the case.
“The probable cause standard is quite low; it’s very different from a motion-to-dismiss standard, which is a bit higher,” Rainville said.
Sleigh then entered not guilty pleas on both counts on LaMere’s behalf.
Vermont State Police Detective Sgt. Henry Alberico, who investigated the incident, said in his affidavit that he reviewed body camera and cruiser camera footage from Essex police officer Justin Lindor, who had pulled LaMere over. Alberico also received LaMere’s department-issued cellphone.
Alberico stated in the affidavit that the camera footage showed LaMere had swerved out of his lane on either side and rolled his window only halfway down to present both his driver’s license and Vermont State Police photo identification to Lindor.
Alberico’s review confirmed that LaMere said he’d been looking at his phone about a fatal crash. When Lindor asked LaMere to confirm that he was going out to respond to the call, LaMere said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” according to the affidavit.
Lindor had asked LaMere where he was coming from, and LaMere said he was coming from his girlfriend’s house in Burlington. LaMere also told Lindor where he lives in Essex, after which Lindor ended the motor vehicle stop.
During the stop, LaMere also told Lindor that he had worked with Lindor's wife in Derby, Lindor said, according to the affidavit. Lindor’s wife is a trooper assigned to the Derby barracks.
Although Lindor described LaMere’s driving as “erratic,” at no point did Lindor ask anything further, nor did he discuss issuing a ticket or warning, according to the affidavit. Lindor also never took possession of LaMere’s driver’s license during the stop.
Lindor told Alberico that LaMere was also speeding, going 50 to 52 mph in an area with a posted speed limit of 40 mph, according to the affidavit.
Alberico stated in the affidavit that, according to Lindor’s May 8 account of events, Lindor saw LaMere’s Jeep swerve over the white shoulder line and the double yellow line in the middle of the road, to the point where the vehicle was completely in the lane of oncoming traffic.
Lindor stated that he did not smell any intoxicants while speaking with LaMere during the traffic stop, and Lindor told another officer that LaMere’s eyes “appeared to be fine” during the stop, according to the affidavit.
Lindor told Alberico that LaMere’s eyes were not bloodshot or watery, and that he was only about 6 inches from LaMere’s face when making his assessment for odor, according to the affidavit.
Asked if there was any other reason to suspect LaMere was under the influence of something, Lindor said no, according to the affidavit. However, Lindor said the manner of vehicle operation was indicative of drunken driving.
Another officer who reviewed the body camera footage, Essex Police Sgt. Michael Chistolini, said Lindor never asked LaMere whether he’d had anything to drink. Chistolini also found it odd that an officer could have been dispatched to a crash by way of email, according to the affidavit.
Essex Police Officer Andrew St. Pierre, who backed up Lindor the night of the incident, told Alberico he found it odd that Trooper LaMere wasn’t home with his cruiser if he was on call.
Alberico said he wanted to interview LaMere directly, but Sleigh informed him on May 18 that LaMere would not be available for an interview about criminal charges, according to court documents.
No date has been set for a trial in the case. The court released LaMere without requiring him to post bail.
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