By Lani Duke
Youth, alcohol, college and sports collide
Castleton police officers arrested an 18-year-old Castleton University football player in the early morning of November 8. Doing so required more effort than the usual amount of force: three Taser shots, pepper spray, intervention by a civilian bystander and backup from two other agencies.
Charbonnier and another man had been walking in the middle of Main Street’s southbound lane when they were stopped by Castleton police officer Michael Hoffman at 2 a.m. Although the student was walking unsteadily, he denied drinking or smoking marijuana. He said he had played in Castleton’s game against Becker College earlier in the day, a game that Castleton lost 35-21. A breath sample pegged Charbonnier’s blood-alcohol level at 0.188.
Offered a ride back to the dorm once paperwork was finished, Charbonnier began cursing, afraid the ride would be to jail. He shoved the officer against the cruiser, then ran about 25 yards but stopped and began returning when he was told Hoffman had his ID. Hoffman fired his Taser and began backing away. A second and third Taser failed to stop Charbonnier, but he threatened to kill Hoffman if Hoffman used pepper spray. A onlooker grabbed the young man in a bear hug, but let go when Hoffman told him to. Hoffman sprayed the youth with pepper spray but the young man began running again.
Vermont State Police and Fair Haven Police came for backup and took part in searching the campus before the youth was found and arrested an hour later. A plastic bag containing marijuana, a smoking utensil, and an unknown “powdery/crystallized substance” lay on the ground where Charbonnier had struggled with the officer.
On November 16, Noel Charbonnier, a Bostonian, pled innocent to misdemeanor charges of assault on a police officer and resisting arrest. The court set him free but only on condition that he not drink or possess alcohol, submit to alcohol testing if a law enforcement officer requests it, undergo a substance abuse assessment, and observe a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.
Defense attorney Matthew Anderson argued against the curfew, so that Charbonnier could fulfill his football commitment with practices that may run past 11 p.m. and that it is important for Charbonnier’s life to have as much normalcy and structure as possible. He described his client as having had no prior contact with criminal or juvenile justice system and stressed by the situation in which he finds himself. Deputy State’s Attorney John Waszak countered with the argument that a curfew is a good structure provider.
The school is cooperating with the police in investigating what happened and is simultaneously conducting its own investigation, according to university communication director Jeff Weld. “In no way is this indicative of common behavior of our students or student athletes. Anytime something like this happens, we take it seriously. We try our best to be good citizens and be a part of the community that’s positive,” Weld said.
Although the 5’9”, 170-pound wide receiver remains a student at Castleton, he was no longer a member of the football team before the Spartans’ final game of the season on Nov. 14. Weld said he could not comment on whether the young man quit the team or left because of a disciplinary action. Charbonnier next appears in court Jan. 6.
Castleton Police Chief Peter Mantello agrees with Weld, saying the town is “more quiet than last year.” Pedestrian traffic from the college to social gatherings is smaller, he said. Chief Mantello believes that prevention policies are working. “We meet with renters, talk with them and the administration,” he outlined. Students seem to be policing their own get-togethers. “Problems are more isolated,” he observed.
Mantello’s department is more proactive too, he noted. Officers monitor foot traffic and talk to students, saying, “We’re not here to ruin your college experience.” They reference ROP: Respect of People, Respect of Property, but that does not deter a zero tolerance of underage drinking, Mantello said.
The town’s police force practices “saturation patrol” the first five to eight weeks of the school year “to set the tone” for student-town interactions. “The new catchword for law enforcement is to be transparent, not looking for special groups,” Chief Mantello commented.
Congratulations . . .
To the Fair Haven Police Department on collecting nearly a ton of food in its recent food drive. Local non-profit Fair Haven Concerned received the $650 and the 1,900 pounds of food collected,while the 200 pounds of donated pet food went to the Rutland County Humane Society.
to volunteers who continue to work at a Habitat for Humanity house on Fair Haven’s West Street. The group effort has been ongoing since June, with construction of a new shed, chimney removal, foundation work and leveling, stair relocation, and many other projects, some big, some small. To lend a hand, get some exercise, meet your neighbors, and likely learn something new in the process, sign up at www.rutlandhabitat.weebly.com.