Three plead innocent in Bridport harassment case
BRIDPORT — Three Bridport men on Monday pleaded innocent in Addison Superior Court, criminal division, to charges they engaged in a series of crimes targeting multiple farm families in Bridport through this past summer.
Bryan Ashley-Selleck, 26, faces 14 charges, including two felony counts of aggravated stalking with a deadly weapon and felony third-degree arson. He’s also been charged with misdemeanor counts of petit larceny, creating unreasonable noise, multiple counts of unlawful mischief, and providing false information to a police officer.
Christopher Thompson, 26, faces two misdemeanor charges of unlawful mischief, according to Addison County State’s Attorney Dennis Wygmans.
Christian Leggett, 19, has been granted youthful offender status and therefore his alleged part in the case won’t be heard in adult criminal court.
It was on Aug. 22 that Vermont State Police Trooper Mae Murdock responded to a home on Lovers Lane in Bridport, on a report of someone having banged “very loudly” on the front door — tearing a screen in the process — and running off. The homeowner showed police a video showing three people on his property and alleged this was the second time such an incident had occurred within less than a week.
Then, on Aug. 23, state police received a report about three “teenagers driving around in a flatbed truck” on Lovers Lane at around 1 a.m., allegedly shooting off fireworks from the vehicle and yelling obscenities. The complainant told police he believed the truck had traveled through nearby cornfields, “as he had found corn stalks pulled up and thrown against his house,” according to court documents.
Also on Aug. 23, Vermont State Police took a call from another person alleging that “someone, driving around in a truck, broke the windows out of her residence” on Lovers Lane, according to court records. Police at the scene reported hearing the sound of a truck with a loud exhaust traveling in the area. Police were subsequently informed of a blue Chevy truck occupied by two white men who had allegedly been “shooting firearms in the air,” according to Trooper Murdock’s affidavit.
Police later that day interviewed an official from an agricultural placement company who works with Bridport-area farms. The man, according to state police, identified Bryan Ashley-Selleck as one of the men allegedly involved in criminal activity, according to court records.
State police said they visited Ashley-Selleck’s home during the evening of Aug. 23, whereupon he allegedly admitted to having been present during the reported incidents of the previous few days, according to Murdock’s affidavit. Ashley-Selleck allegedly told police that he had been accompanied by Leggett and Thompson. Ashley-Selleck only admitted to having driven the truck, according to police.
Some of those targeted were migrant workers, according to authorities.
State police on Aug. 24, with the aid of a Spanish-English translator, interviewed victims in the case who alleged that on Aug. 20, “a person arrived at the residence and pushed their air conditioner into the house.” The perpetrator then allegedly pushed in a window screen and ran back to his truck yelling an obscenity in both English and Spanish, according to court records.
The same victims reported a man came to their home at around 1:40 a.m. on Aug. 23 and again pushed an air conditioner through a window in their home. Witnesses allege the man, wearing a white T-shirt and blue shorts, also shot a firearm near the home, according to Murdock’s affidavit.
Police asked the victims if the suspect had yelled racial slurs at them. They replied “no,” that the man had shouted obscenities, growling-like sounds and mocking laughter.
Police said one of the victims reported the man had been driving a blue Chevy diesel truck. That victim later identified the man as Ashley-Selleck, based on a photo police showed him, according to police.
Another victim told police the “incidents have brought her fear and she is not able to sleep at night,” according to Murdock’s affidavit.
State police, during the course of their lengthy investigation, said they were told of other alleged criminal activity in the neighborhood occurring earlier in the year.
That alleged activity included:
• Someone dumping trash out of a Lovers Lane resident’s garbage cans, then stealing the cans, on June 3.
• Three people banging loudly on a Lovers Lane resident’s door at around 12:47 a.m. on July 17.
• Thefts from a residence on Route 125 in Bridport on Aug. 1. The victim reported someone had stolen his E-911 signs and mailboxes.
• During that same night of Aug. 1, the Addison Fire Department responded to a report of hay bales on fire at a property on Jersey Street in Addison, according to town records.
• Vandalism to a mailbox at another Route 125 home in Bridport.
State police said they re-interviewed Ashley-Selleck on Aug. 26. He initially insisted he had only been involved with the Aug. 23 incidents and told police no firearms had been used, according to court records. But Ashley-Selleck, later during questioning, allegedly admitted to having been present during some of the aforementioned vandalisms and hay bale incidents, but blamed the activity primarily on Thompson, according to court records.
“Ashley-Selleck said Thompson lit the hay bales on fire and it was to ‘(expletive) with people’s stuff,’” reads Murdock’s affidavit. “Ashley-Selleck also said Thompson had a vendetta against certain people,” specifically referring to a local farm.
Police in early September pointed to a possible “feud between local farm families that began as a dispute over access to a fishing area.”
Thompson and Leggett denied any involvement in any of the criminal activity, according to court records.
But VSP said they uncovered evidence in Thompson’s phone that suggested a collaboration, according to court records. Police specifically cited an Aug. 30 text conversation between Thompson and Ashley-Selleck that in part stated:
Ashley-Selleck: “We are fine man we just can’t make stupid decisions anymore. Yeah it’s funny but we gotta think about ourselves man.”
Marita Canedo of Burlington-based Migrant Justice — a nonprofit that represents the interests of migrant farm workers — suggested back in September that some of the activity qualified as “an organized hate crime.”
Ultimately, the investigation didn’t lead to any hate crime charges against any of the three men. But authorities last month did charge Chase Atkins, 24, of Addison with misdemeanor disturbing the peace by telephone (with a hate-crime enhancement), stemming from allegations he deflated the tires of a vehicle belonging to an employee of Migrant Justice and left a voicemail at that same organization asking its representatives to stay away from area farms, back in August.
Police allege Atkins had visited a farm off Route 22A in Addison and while there, let the air out of the tires of a vehicle belonging to an employee of Migrant Justice.