Crime and Justice

Winooski man accused of racist road rage charged with federal hate crime

Michael Gosselin. 2020 Winooski police photo

Updated at 7:41 p.m.

A grand jury has indicted a Winooski man on a federal hate crime charge that appears to be related to an alleged incident of racist intimidation last year. 

Michael Gosselin, 51, was arrested last year after allegedly yelling racist abuse at Tyler Gibbs, a Black woman, who said Gosselin then tried to hit her car with his truck in Winooski on June 29, 2021. 

In an indictment dated June 2 and signed by Vermont’s U.S. attorney, Nikolas Kerest, prosecutors allege that Gosselin “willfully intimidated, interfered with and attempted to injure, intimidate and interfere with a person because of her race and color” and that he “used and attempted to use a dangerous weapon in the course of such acts.”

Gosselin pleaded not guilty to the charge in federal court Thursday. 

State prosecutors charged Gosselin last year with four misdemeanors. Sally Adams, a chief deputy state’s attorney in the Chittenden County State Attorney’s Office, said that those charges will be dropped and replaced with the federal charge. 

“As a result of Mr. Gosselin’s federal arrest today, the State will be dismissing its case to allow for (the U.S. Attorney’s Office) to move forward with their prosecution for the events that took place in Winooski on June 29, 2021,” Adams said in an email. 

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment Thursday. The indictment does not name Gibbs, nor does it describe the underlying events that led to the charge, but it notes that the alleged hate crime occurred June 29, 2021. The charge carries a potential sentence of up to 10 years and a fine, according to the cited statute. 

A public defender who represented Gosselin last year did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. 

During the June 29 incident, Gosselin allegedly pulled his pick-up truck alongside Gibbs and shouted, “If Black Lives Matter, then why are your people always under mine?” according to a VTDigger interview with Gibbs last year. 

He also swerved twice in an apparent attempt to hit Gibbs with his car, Gibbs told police. When Gibbs tried to take a photo of his truck, Gosselin exited his vehicle and tried to grab her phone, Gibbs said. Gosselin then followed her and continued to accost her, according to a police affidavit.

The affidavit of probable cause said Gosselin was familiar to the Winooski Police Department, and was known to engage in “road rage” incidents. Police said he had multiple interactions with police and two prior arrests, although
charges were not filed for either incident in Chittenden County criminal court. 

Soon after the Gibbs encounter, state prosecutors charged Gosselin with four misdemeanors: aggravated disorderly conduct, stalking, negligent driving and disorderly conduct with a hate crime attached.

But some questioned why prosecutors chose not to charge Gosselin with felony aggravated assault. Sarah George, the Chittenden County state’s attorney, said at the time that there was not enough evidence for such charges.

“In order for us to charge an aggravated assault, we would need to show that he did, or that he intended to, cause her serious bodily injury, under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to the value of human life,” George told VTDigger last year. “Right now, the witness statements, nor Tyler’s statements, indicate that.”

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Peter D'Auria

About Peter

Peter D’Auria covers education for VTDigger. Prior to moving to Vermont, he worked for The Jersey Journal, The Chilkat Valley News and Willamette Week. He is originally from Portland, Oregon.

Email: [email protected]

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