Crime and Justice

Vermont Conversation: Delivering justice from Island Pond to Kosovo

Dean Pineles. Photo courtesy of Dean Pineles

The Vermont Conversation with David Goodman is a VTDigger podcast that features in-depth interviews on local and national issues with politicians, activists, artists, changemakers and citizens who are making a difference. Listen below, and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts or Spotify to hear more.

“Children of sect seized in Vermont,” blared the headline on the front page of the New York Times on June 23, 1984. 

The newspaper reported, “About 140 state police officers and social service workers raided 20 homes near (Island Pond, Vermont) early this morning and took into custody 112 children of the Northeast Kingdom Community Church because members had refused to answer complaints about child abuse and neglect.” 

The case sparked national outrage and was quickly thrown out by a judge.

Dean Pineles was legal counsel to former Gov. Richard Snelling at the time of the raid. He insists that the raid at Island Pond was justified. Pineles went on to a distinguished career as a Vermont trial judge and later presided over war crimes tribunals in Kosovo. He says that Kosovo provided a precedent that Russian President Vladimir Putin used to justify his invasion of Ukraine. He reflects on his globetrotting legal career in a new memoir, “A Judge's Odyssey: From Vermont to Russia, Kazakhstan, and Georgia, Then on to War Crimes and Organ Trafficking in Kosovo.

Pineles has traveled the world to issue justice, but he continues to grapple with the issues surrounding the infamous Island Pond case that he confronted as a young attorney in Vermont.

“I would sit here with a heavy conscience if we had done nothing and had been faced with a dead child,” Pineles declared shortly after the Island Pond raid.

Four decades later, Pineles stands by that decision. 

“I would rather be here defending what we did,” he said.

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David Goodman

About David

David Goodman is an award-winning journalist and the author of a dozen books, including four New York Times bestsellers that he co-authored with his sister, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman. His work has appeared in Mother Jones, New York Times, Outside, Boston Globe and other publications. He is the host of The Vermont Conversation, a VTDigger podcast featuring in-depth interviews about local and national topics. The Vermont Conversation is also an hour-long weekly radio program that can be heard on Wednesday at 1 p.m. on WDEV/Radio Vermont.

Email: [email protected]

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