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In July we told you about a June incident reported in the Bennington Banner where Bennington Rural Fire Department (VT) Chief Joseph Hayes faced criminal charges after being accused of throwing a flashlight at a car he thought was going to hit him while the chief was checking out arcing wires along a road. Chief Hayes entered a guilty plea yesterday to disorderly conduct, one of two charges he faced after tossing the flashlight at Fred Grant’s vehicle in an effort to get him to slow down.
The state dropped the mischief charge and Hayes agreed that he would go before a reparative board with the next four months. If he completes the board’s instructions his case will be sealed and not show up on his record, said his attorney William D. Wright, of Bennington.
Wright said in an interview that his client feared he would be hit by Grant’s vehicle and while jumping out of the way Hayes underhand tossed the flashlight which hit Grant’s car. He said it was an instinctive action and there was no intent to hit or damage Grant’s vehicle.
According to Wright, Hayes agreed to the plea agreement because he wished the case to be over with and felt the reparative board was acceptable, rather than take the matter to trial. “This is the ugly part of our system,” Wright said. “He’s thought about a trial and the system has a way of wearing people down.”
As for the driver, Fred Grant had told police that he did not notice Chief Hayes, who was not wearing a reflective vest when he crossed the road to look at the number on a utility pole. Grant said he was going between 15 and 20 mph and that rain and oncoming headlights blocked his view of Hayes.