Prosecutor Drops Attempted Murder Charges In Sawyer Case

Apr 23, 2018

Rutland County State's Attorney Rose Kennedy has dismissed the four most serious charges against Jack Sawyer, saying a ruling by the Vermont Supreme Court has made prosecution “untenable.”

Kennedy’s office initially charged Sawyer with two counts of attempted aggravated murder, and one count of attempted first-degree murder. A Rutland County judge found probable cause for those charges, and ordered that Sawyer be held without bail.

But Sawyer’s defense team challenged the probable cause finding in Vermont Supreme Court. And the court ruled that Sawyer’s alleged plot to inflict mass casualties at Fair Haven Union High School didn't constitute an "attempt," under existing law. They also ruled that Sawyer therefore could not be held without bail.

In a nine-page notice sent out by Kennedy’s office Monday morning, Kennedy said the state is dismissing the attempted murder charges, as well as a charge of aggravated assault with a weapon.

Kennedy said she’ll proceed with two lesser charges of criminal threatening and carrying a dangerous weapon. Together these carry up to three years in prison. Kennedy is also asking the judge in the case to keep Sawyer’s bail at $100,000.

Kelly Green, Sawyer’s defense attorney, told VPR this morning that she felt the now-dismissed charges should never have been brought in the first place.  Last week she appealed the bail amount and conditions to the Vermont Supreme Court.

Now that some of the charges have been dismissed, Rutland Superior Court Judge Thomas Zonay issued an entry order today stating that in light of the appeal Sawyer’s defense team has before the Vermont Supreme Court, it’ll be up to that court to decide how and if Sawyer’s bail or conditions will be changed.

But late Monday, Green withdrew her appeal to the Supreme Court and requested the Rutland court review her client's bail after all. That hearing is set for 9am Wednesday.

Fair Haven students were in Montpelier last week to testify before lawmakers about making a change to Vermont statute regarding what it means to "attempt" a crime. On Monday in Fair Haven, community members reacted to the latest news of the Sawyer case.

Mark Gutel owns a café in downtown Fair Haven, and he said his three kids will attend Fair Haven Union High School in a few years. He described feeling "extremely uneasy and frustrated."

"Because, you know, this is ... I believe a serious crime against our community – against these kids," Gutel continued. "These kids are scared to death still. These kids are scared to death and for him to just walk away, it just doesn’t seem right."

"I care about my town. I’ve grown up here; I’m now raising a child here," said Katy Moore, who has a 17-month-old daughter. "I just would never ever want anything like a mass shooting to happen here, and it honestly just makes me want to keep my child home when it’s time for her to go to school.”

The case is ongoing, and as of today, Sawyer has not posted bail and remains in custody at Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility.

Update 6:43 p.m. 4/23/18 This post was updated to include further details regarding bail in this case, as well as reaction from the Fair Haven community.

Update 9:05 a.m. 4/24/18 This post was updated to include new details regarding a Wednesday bail hearing.