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Sorrell  To Run In ’14

Longtime Vt. AG Has ‘Unfinished Business’

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell answers a question during a March 2012 interview. (Valley News - Theophil Syslo)

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell answers a question during a March 2012 interview. (Valley News - Theophil Syslo)

Montpelier — Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell says he has some unfinished business he wants to complete, so he’ll seek another term next year.

Sorrell announced his intentions during an appearance on the Mark Johnson Show on Waterbury radio station WDEV on Thursday. On Friday, he provided some of the reasons for his decision in an interview with The Associated Press.

The 66-year-old Sorrell has been re-elected every two years since former Gov. Howard Dean appointed him to the post in 1997 but last year narrowly survived a challenge in the Democratic primary by Chittenden County prosecutor T.J. Donovan.

Donovan on Friday declined to comment on whether he might seek a rematch against his fellow Burlington Democrat next year.

If he did, the stakes would be higher, because he’s also up for re-election to his current post. If he lost the primary to Sorrell again, or in the general election, Donovan would be out of a job.

Sorrell said he wanted to continue with several initiatives that his office is just beginning to pursue, or which are taking on new urgency.

He said he wanted to solidify Vermont’s leadership role nationally among states cracking down on “patent trolling.” That’s a practice in which a company or law firm contacts small businesses or nonprofits and accuses them of patent infringement, often for using certain types of software in their operations.

Vermont lawmakers passed a law cracking down on the practice last spring, after hearing testimony that such claims are often unjustified or even deceptive and are designed to extract licensing fees or settlement payments from businesses or nonprofits that fear facing costly lawsuits.

Sorrell said his office also has opened a new front in the fight against “cramming.” That’s a practice in which third-party vendors get charges inserted onto people’s phone bills, sometimes without the consumer ever having done anything to warrant them. The new field is “wireless cramming,” in which the charges show up on mobile phone bills.

Sorrell said he and his state cellular phone account were victimized by the practice last year, being hit two months in a row with $9.99 charges from a service called “Mobile Love II,” which the attorney general said he had never used. The state was able to contact the wireless carrier and get the charges canceled, he said.

But he said many consumers don’t notice such charges, pointing to on instance in which a consumer was billed by a third-party company called “Basic Data Plan.” “A lot of people will look at that and say, ‘Oh yeah, I want the basic data plan,’” Sorrell said.

A third area in which he plans to step up enforcement efforts is in child pornography. Sorrell said there’s growing evidence that “there’s a lot of overlap” between users of child pornography and “hands-on abusers” of children.

And he said even though the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant has announced it is closing next year, there are still several balls in the air in connection with litigation between the state and plant owner Entergy Corp.