Fire chief enters plea deal to resolve flashlight caseBy Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | January 08,2013BENNINGTON - The chief of the Bennington Rural Fire Department pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct after police said he threw a flashlight at a car on June 3 while he was at a fire scene but it’s likely he’ll avoid having a criminal record.
Joseph T. Hayes, 43, of North Bennington, was arraigned in Bennington criminal court in July on the charge of disorderly conduct and a misdemeanor charge of unlawful mischief.
Under the agreement reached on Tuesday, Hayes pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct but the charge of unlawful mischief has been dismissed.
In addition, Hayes’ sentence for the charge was deferred for four months. He will appear before the reparative board and, if he complies with whatever the board requires of him and stays out of further legal trouble, the case will be dismissed and Hayes’ conviction will be sealed.
William D. Wright, the attorney who represented Hayes, continued to maintain that his client had only been doing his duty as a fire chief at the scene of an emergency. He said it had been a “troubling” case for him and his client.
According to Wright, Hayes was on North Bennington Road, handling a situation involving arcing power lines in a tree on June 3 around 10:20 p.m. Wright said Frederick Grant drove through the scene, past the fire police, without slowing down.
Wright said the car drove toward Hayes “rapidly” and Hayes had to move quickly out of the way to avoid being hit.
“As he did so, he sort of instinctively underhanded the flashlight towards the vehicle. I don’t want the impression that he kind of wound-up and was off to the side of the road and threw it because that’s simply not accurate,” Wright said.
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