Vermont AG: No Charges Against Former Hartford Officer

Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, July 26, 2018

Hartford — The Vermont Attorney General’s Office has declined to prosecute a former Hartford police officer whose colleagues reported possible mistreatment of a suspect in a holding cell in September.

The name of the officer had been kept under wraps, but this week, Assistant Attorney General Bram Kranichfeld said his office won’t file charges against former Hartford officer Frederick Peyton.

“We were reviewing an allegation that police officer Fred Peyton had used excessive force against an arrestee,” Kranichfeld said in an interview on Tuesday. “We conducted a thorough review of the case and we determined there was insufficient evidence to support criminal charges and that criminal charges would be inappropriate.”

Peyton still might be charged in connection with the alleged incident in a holding cell with Jeffrey Stroike, 32, who was arrested on Route 5 on Sept. 14 and taken to the Hartford Police Department.

Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill, who is investigating the matter separately from the Attorney General’s Office, said he hasn’t decided whether to prosecute Peyton.

He declined to provide details about what his office still was reviewing, citing the ongoing investigation.

Investigators haven’t disclosed what happened in the holding cell that night. Cahill said his office is focused on determining what physical force Peyton used and whether it constituted criminal conduct.

There is video footage, but Cahill and Hartford Police Chief Phil Kasten have denied public record requests for that material because an investigation is ongoing.

A public records request for the footage and other material was made to the Attorney General’s Office on Thursday afternoon.

“I can’t say too much,” Cahill said. “It is not done yet from our perspective. We are still taking an active look at this.”

Asked why two state agencies are reviewing Peyton’s case, Cahill said: “Two sets of eyes are better than one. We may ultimately reach the same conclusion, but it is important for the public to understand that we are being thorough.”

Kranichfeld declined to explain why the state Attorney General’s Office decided not to pursue charges.

In November, the Hartford Police Department, together with an independent investigator — retired Vermont State Police Trooper Daniel Troidl — asked prosecutors to review whether Peyton mistreated Stroike, a request that came after at least one other officer raised questions about Peyton’s conduct and Kasten himself said he had “concerns about conduct in this incident.”

Reached on Wednesday, Troidl said he signed a confidentiality agreement and couldn’t comment.

Stroike initially faced charges after his arrest, including unlawful mischief and disorderly conduct; he was ordered into diversion in December .

A record of those charges no longer exists, indicating they have been disposed of in some fashion.

A message left for Stroike wasn’t returned on Wednesday. He has an active arrest warrant pending in an unrelated matter.

Stroike previously told the Valley News that he doesn’t remember all of the details from the night in question, but recalled waking up at the hospital sore and with a “fat eyebrow.” He maintains he was “roughed up” and “choked” during the incident.

On Wednesday, Kasten, the Hartford police chief, reserved comment on the matter until both prosecutors completed their investigations.

Messages left for Peyton on Wednesday weren’t returned.

Police officers arrested Stroike on Sept. 14 after a woman called police and reported a man lying in the middle of Route 5, according to an affidavit written by Hartford police officer Eric Clifford. Officers Clifford, Peyton and Logan Scelza responded to the call.

Stroike was reportedly “highly agitated,” smelling of alcohol and ignoring commands, behavior that continued once he was put in the holding cell, Clifford reported.

A separate affidavit by Norwich police officer Francis Schippert said police officers devised a plan while back at the police station to restrain Stroike so he could be sedated by paramedics and be transported to the hospital for evaluation.

As he was being restrained and sedated, which took multiple attempts, Stroike became agitated and resisted, and told the officers restraining him that he wanted “paperwork to report police abuse,” according to that affidavit.

The affidavits made no mention of alleged mistreatment.

Peyton was one of several officers sued in 2012 by then-Wilder resident Wayne Burwell for the alleged use of unreasonable force in Burwell’s home. That case was settled between Burwell and the two remaining officers — Peyton and Detective Kristinnah Adams — on Sept. 27, with the town paying $500,000. The settlement included no acknowledgement of wrongdoing by Peyton and Adams.

Prior to the alleged incident in the holding cell, Peyton submitted a letter of resignation, on Aug. 31, and indicated his last day would be Oct. 13.

Peyton had been “contemplating his career choice for some time,” Kasten said at the time.

Peyton, however, submitted an “immediate resignation” on Sept. 29, Kasten said.

Peyton wasn’t asked to leave on that day but chose to, Kasten said on Wednesday.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.