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Man in Chelsea policing controversy held on $5,000 bail

  • Wearing personal protective equipment, Scott A. Irish is arraigned remotely from Northwest State Correctional Facility in Swanton, Vt., on July 27, 2021, with violating the conditions of his release by moving from a wooded area in Washington, Vt., to a friend’s house in Topsham, Vt., without informing the Orange Superior Court clerks office. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • From from his office in Chelsea, Vt., Judge Thomas Zonay speaks about bail conditions for Scott A. Irish, upper right, during a remote arraignment on July 27, 2021. At middle right is Irish's attorney William Cobb and below him is Orange County State's Attorney Dickson Corbett. Irish is charged with violating the conditions of his release by moving from a wooded area in Washington, Vt., to a friend’s house in Topsham, Vt., without informing the Orange Superior Court clerks office. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — Geoff Hansen

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/27/2021 9:41:01 PM
Modified: 7/27/2021 9:41:02 PM

CHELSEA — A 40-year-old homeless man embroiled in a policing controversy in Chelsea has been ordered held on over $5,000 bond after a judge noted he has 13 prior cases of failure to appear for court hearings.

Scott Irish pleaded not guilty Tuesday in a virtual hearing out of Orange Superior Court to one misdemeanor count of violating the conditions of his release by moving from a wooded area in Washington, Vt., to a friend’s house in Topsham, Vt., without telling the court clerk’s office.

The judge’s order is the latest news for Irish, who has also been at the center of tensions in Orange and Washington counties in the last few months over a perceived uptick in thefts, calls for a boost in police presence and the arrest of a Chelsea auto shop owner charged with holding Irish at gunpoint after accusing him of stealing.

The latest charge stems from an earlier burglary charge, which is unrelated to the incident with the auto shop owner, out of Randolph in Orange County in May, when Irish was taken into custody and then released from jail on conditions including that he must inform the court if he moves his permanent address.

After Irish’s arrest, he originally gave court clerks an address on East Cobble Hill road as his permanent residence, then started living in a tent in the woods before moving to his friend’s house according to court records. Police discovered Irish changed his address when they went to look for him in the woods while investigating a separate case.

During the hearing, Judge Thomas Zonay cited Irish’s criminal history as a reason for imposing a stricter bail order. In addition to Irish’s 13 prior failures to appear for court hearings, Irish has 22 misdemeanor convictions and two felony convictions, Zonay said, though he did not specify what charges the convictions entailed.

“There is a risk of flight that is growing when someone does not follow court orders,” Zonay said “The court does conclude there’s a significant risk of flight from prosecution.”

Zonay ordered Irish held on a cash or surety bond of $5,000 on the original larceny charge and $200 on the violation of release of conditions charge.

Irish appeared Tuesday by video from Northwest State Correctional Facility, where he is being held, and spoke in protest after the judge’s order, claiming he did mention plans to move to his attorney.

“I have no way to do anything,” Irish said of Zonay’s claim that he is a flight risk. He added that he’s worried about his dogs, who are still in the woods where he was staying when he was taken into custody. During the hearing, Zonay asked Irish’s attorney, William Cobb, to call Irish and arrange a way to get his dogs to safety.

Irish has been in the news for another case, which began with stolen goods and led to communitywide discussions and protest over policing and vigilantism.

Tensions came to a head in May when WRC Automotive owner Wayland Childs reported his business on Route 110 in Chelsea was broken into and suspected Irish was to blame, according to court records. Police say Childs tracked down Irish to a motel in Barre, Vt., and held him at gunpoint in May.

Childs was charged following the incident, and his arrest sparked support for him from community members around Chelsea, Barre and Washington, many of whom put “We stand with Wayland” signs in their front yards.

Irish has denied breaking into Childs’ shop and has not been charged with the WRC Automotive break-in, though police said at the time that the accusations against him were being investigated.

However, in addition to the Orange County burglary charge, Irish is also facing a separate larceny charge that he stole two catalytic converters from a storage facility in East Montpelier in May. He has a hearing on that case scheduled for Thursday in Washington Superior Court.

Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.




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