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Addison County Sheriff charged with sexual and domestic assault. He doesn’t plan to resign.

A wooden gavel on a table with a blurry bookshelf in the background.
Addison County Sheriff Peter Newton faces several criminal charges, including sexual assault. He pleaded not guilty on Tuesday and doesn't appear to have any plans to resign from his position.

Despite facing several criminal charges including sexual assault, Addison County Sheriff Peter Newton plans to remain in office.

Newton faces four charges: two counts of sexual assault, one count of domestic assault and a charge of unlawful restraint. He pleaded not guilty to all four counts on Tuesday.

Newton, 50, was arrested after a nearly four-month investigation and state police say he sexually assaulted a woman he was in a relationship with. According to an affidavit of probable cause filed Tuesday, the woman told state police about multiple instances of sexual violence committed by Newton where he ignored her requests to stop, restrained her against her will and choked and hit her with a belt.

State police referred the investigation to the Washington County State’s Attorney’s office which filed the charges. The Addison County State’s Attorney’s office recused itself to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

During Tuesday's arraignment, Judge John Pacht ordered Newton not to engage in any law enforcement activity as one of several conditions of release. Newton's attorney, Jason Sawyer, said that would not prevent Newton from carrying out his duties.

"I think he's comfortable remaining sheriff and doing his other duties as sheriff that keep him busy without engaging in law enforcement activities,” Sawyer said.

Newton is also not allowed to possess or buy a firearms and cannot contact the alleged victim, according to his court-ordered conditions of release.

But at least one elected official in Addison County says Newton should resign. High bailiff David Silberman served as acting sheriff on Tuesday after Newton was arrested. In the past, the high bailiff’s role was to oversee and even arrest the sheriff. Today, the role is largely a ceremonial position.

“The only tool, so to speak, at my disposal, is to make it clear to Peter that he needs to resign for the good of the county,” Silberman said. “When the sheriff has been accused of sexual assault and awaiting trial, I just don’t see how he can be an effective leader of a law enforcement agency,

Newton, who was elected sheriff four years ago, said in May that he wouldn’t seek re-election – a decision that came after VTDiggerreported that state police were investigating him.

Two Republican candidates for Addison County Sheriff are facing off in the August primary: Michael Elmore, a sergeant in the Addison County Sheriff’s office, and Ron Holmes, who’d previously been a deputy sheriff and served as high bailiff.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with reporter Liam Elder-Connors @lseconnors

Updated: June 29, 2022 at 2:31 PM EDT
This post has been updated to clarify the actions that led to the charges against Newton
Liam is Vermont Public’s public safety reporter, focusing on law enforcement, courts and the prison system.
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