Driver in Fatal S. Royalton Crash Pleads Guilty

Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, January 11, 2018

White River Junction — A 38-year-old Bethel man charged in connection with a fatal August crash in South Royalton pleaded guilty on Thursday to leaving the scene of the accident and driving with a suspended license.

Jeremy Potwin also pleaded guilty to negligent operation in the Aug. 4 crash on Back River Road that killed his friend and front-seat passenger, James Arbuckle.

Potwin was slated to take a plea deal on Tuesday but failed to appear in court for the hearing, which was rescheduled for Thursday.

He has yet to be sentenced, but documents filed in Windsor Superior Court indicate he will receive a three- to eight-year sentence, all suspended, except for 240 days. Of those days, 180 would be served on 24-hour home confinement and the remaining 60 days would be served on work crew, according to paperwork filed by his attorney Christopher Dall.

A judge would still have to accept the plea deal.

Potwin was released on conditions after Thursday’s hearing.

Police said Potwin was speeding on Back River Road on the night of Aug. 4 when he lost control and crashed into a guardrail. The guardrail pierced the vehicle and impaled Arbuckle, who died at the scene, according to an affidavit. A third person in the vehicle, Tyler Leach, suffered minor injuries.

Potwin, who has been convicted of driving under the influence at least twice before, fled the scene after the crash.

At the time of the incident, Potwin didn’t have a valid driver’s license and wasn’t driving a car with an ignition interlock device, something he was required to have installed in order to legally operate a vehicle.

He has several infractions on his record in Vermont, as well as some in New Hampshire, according to court records.

Arbuckle’s family members appeared in the White River Junction courthouse on Aug. 7 for Potwin’s arraignment; afterward, some said they wished the state wouldn’t prosecute.

Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill said on Thursday that the sentencing hearing will be scheduled a few weeks out to afford the Arbuckle family the opportunity to attend.

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