Questions abound following new arrest for Shane Bartshe


BRANDON — For nearly two months, tension and uncertainty have been on the rise in Brandon after the Brandon Free Public Library (BFPL) received notice on July 1 from Rutland Mental Health Service (RHMS) that a local man under their care, Shane Bartshe, had threatened to rape one of BFPL’s librarians.

Compounding the problem are issues pertaining to Bartshe and the legal and mental health care systems at large, specifically as it pertains to his legal protections and RMHS’s inability to shed light on the nuances therein—a situation that involves the State’s Attorney’s office and several pending cases including a sexual assault case from 2019 where Bartshe is alleged to have sexually assaulted a caretaker at his residence in Brandon, which RMHS owns.

On the evening of Friday, August 12, Bartshe was arrested again, this time for disorderly conduct, after placing a chair in the middle of Route 7/Franklin Street. Brandon Police were able to peacefully detain Mr. Barthse, who has a history of violence, including a recent incident with Rutland City Police that left two officers injured.

The arrest is just one of the dozens of interactions with Bartshe that involve BPD dating back to June 2022 and one of roughly 100 interactions dating back to 2015.

At issue since the RMHS call to BFPL on July 1 has been Mr. Bartshe’s conditions of release following the 2019 sexual assault case. The case has been delayed or prolonged due to numerous issues, including COVID and difficulty arranging for sign language translators for the hearing-impaired Bartshe.

The Conditions of Release document from July 22, 2019, signed by Judge Thomas A. Zonay, stipulates that Mr. Bartshe “Follow care providers [sic] rules and Regulations [sic]. May not be left unsupervise [sic] at any time.” RMHS is not explicitly named in the document, and Judge Zonay was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

The Brandon selectboard heard from BFPL at the selectboard’s meeting on July 25. At that time, it was decided that they would write a letter of support for BFPL to gain clarification on and assistance with the ongoing behavior of Mr. Bartshe.

In an email exchange addressed to Brandon Selectboard Chair Seth Hopkins and BFPL Board Chair David Roberts sent on behalf of RMHS’s CEO Dick Courcelle and the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging, & Independent Living (DAIL) Commissioner Monica White, White wrote the following:

 “There is no court order of which we are aware that requires RMHS or any other agency to provide the Agency’s client with 24/7 supervision… Misinformation continues to circulate about the client’s diagnoses, legal status, conditions of release, etc., which is perpetuating a misunderstanding of the role and legal powers of the various entities working together to best address this situation in the safest manner possible for all involved.”

RMHS, which has yet to make public comments on any aspect of the current developments, has declined multiple requests for clarification from The Reporter, citing privacy laws, stating, “There are certain instances where we can and, in fact, may be compelled to make disclosures, but responding to questions from a reporter does not fall within those exceptions.”

In an emailed response to Mr. Hopkins’s questions about the conditions of release, Mr. Courcelle wrote the following: “We are not involved in the criminal case and therefore cannot speak to the validity of the provision you cite, except to say that this language from 2019 does not require RMHS to provide 24/7 supervision. Any further questions about the provision in question should be directed to the criminal court.”

Following Mr. Bartshe’s recent arrest, Acting State’s Attorney Ian Sullivan sent an email to DAIL, RMHS, BFPL, the town of Brandon, and State Reps. Stephanie Jerome and Butch Shaw in an attempt to clarify the state’s position.

“It is clear to me that the situation in Brandon is extremely tense. In addition to the criminal cases that we are already prosecuting, there were deeply concerning statements that have left a library employee feeling unsafe at work,” he wrote. “Understandably, there is a very real concern and frustration within the community. As far as I can tell, many well-intentioned people are looking for a solution so that this situation ends without anyone being hurt.”

As potential solutions go, the criminal justice system offers a limited universe of outcomes; almost all of those depend on the outcome of [Mr. Bartshe’s mental] competency litigation.

Ian Sullivan, Acting State’s Attorney

 “As potential solutions go, the criminal justice system offers a limited universe of outcomes; almost all of those depend on the outcome of [Mr. Bartshe’s mental] competency litigation,” he continued. “If a new crime has been committed, a new prosecution can begin. A new prosecution affords the possibility of requesting new conditions of release, bail, pre-trial detention, or a combination, depending on the specific facts and charges.”

Sullivan went on to discuss BPD’s involvement, as well as what the potential fallout from the most recent arrest may be, stating, “Chief Kachajian and I have been in contact about this incident. I now have a better sense of the incident BPD responded to and the response the officers chose. As I understand it, the officers deescalated a tense situation and connected a person in need of services with the available services.”

 “At this point,” he went on, “the State’s Attorney’s Office does not have a new violation of conditions of release to prosecute. We are both committed to working together, within the laws and existing systems, to protect public safety.”

Sullivan went on to discuss the legal issues surrounding pre-trial detention, pointing out that Vermont’s laws make it rare because it is a “deprivation of liberty.” There are extreme circumstances that allow for pre-trial detention; however, they typically involve a person being charged with a life offense such as murder, kidnapping, and sexual assault, or a violent felony “where no conditions can prevent a threat of future violence.”

In other words, Mr. Bartshe has not been charged with any of the above, and there is very little that the legal system can do barring a change in those circumstances. 

It’s unclear what legal options RMHS has available to find Mr. Bartshe a preferable living situation—a situation that BPD Chief David Kachajian agrees would be better for both Brandon and Mr. Bartshe. 

“He says he’s bored and doesn’t want to be in Brandon,” said Kachajian. “He just wants to go down to the hospital in Rutland.”

According to Kachajian, BPD has had almost no interaction with RMHS regarding Mr. Bartshe’s recent spate of police interactions. “I haven’t heard a peep in I can’t remember when,” he said.” 

BFPL’s director Molly Kennedy recently spoke alongside David Roberts at the RMHS board meeting, outlining their current frustrations with RMHS as well as the measures that the library has been forced to take to bring security to a level where librarians and community members alike might feel safe enough to return to the facility after a 10-day closure.

“As we prepare to reopen on August 16, we have put in place extra safety measures to ensure

our staff can be at work without being afraid,” said Kennedy, outlining a sweeping security plan that includes mace training with BPD, the installation of trauma packs, evacuation and security drills, a new Bluetooth deadbolt system, Livestream security camera system, the installation of a safe room, the implementation of a neighborhood watch system, and a police call button.

“We’ve done everything in our power to provide a safe work environment, and these measures

will hopefully enable our coworker to return to work safely until this individual is appropriately

supported,” said Kennedy.

 “In the meantime,” she continued, “we are asking that you prioritize this situation to ensure an

expedient resolution; allowing the library to return its focus to supporting the greater Brandon

community rather than exhausting its limited resources on this mental health crisis.”

Mr. Roberts spoke more directly about the situation’s impact on the community.

“Neighbors living next door are afraid to let their children play in their yard. These children see the police and ambulance come to this house over and over again. Many times, they hear a lot of yelling and fighting but hide in their rooms,” he said. 

“The police recently visited a retired school teacher living nearby who was frightened to leave her home,” he continued. “Children have told their parents that they have seen a ‘big man walking around buck naked’ in the yard. How would you feel if your 10-year-old granddaughter lived next door?”

“We asked for help to keep our threatened Librarian safe,” he continued. “Every conversation went silent or was ignored. The Brandon Police, Rutland ER, Rutland County State’s Attorney,

Brandon Select Board, Brandon Rescue Squad, and many community members all asked why

Rutland Mental Health wasn’t taking action. Instead of helping us in the most significant crisis this library has ever faced, Rutland Mental Health employees treated our librarians like they were the problem. It was insinuated that the librarians were making too big of a deal out of this situation. We were ignored and accused of mischaracterizing the situation.”

No member of RMHS added any comment to either Roberts’s or Kennedy’s statements during the meeting or at The Reporter’s request following the meeting.

Following a recent conference call with Mr. Courcelle and Ms. White, Brandon Selectboard Chair Seth Hopkins expressed some optimism that RMHS was taking the town’s concerns seriously, stating, “My hope would be that a statement would be forthcoming,” he said.

Town Manager David Atherton, who was also on the call, expressed a similar sentiment. “Something might come down the pike soon,” he said. “They told us what they could. They’re looking for a solution—I don’t think it will happen overnight.

In the meantime, it will continue to fall to Chief Kachajian and BPD to do what’s in their power to keep Brandon and Bartshe safe, despite their limited abilities. “We’re doing what we need to do as a police department,” he said. “We are checking off boxes. We need [the other] agencies to do what they need to do to fix this problem.”

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