Ed Brown returns to court; sent back to diversion

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing, LLC

Brown, foreground, looks on as bail is decided for a defendant accused of crack possession. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

On Friday afternoon, Londonderry restaurant owner Ed Brown sat patiently in a Brattleboro courtroom waiting for  those defendants with lawyers to be heard. There were a couple of guys who were allegedly caught with a large amount of cocaine and crack, another charged with negligent driving that resulted in a fatal accident, a DUI from the Stratton access road and more.

With a momentary pause between the availability of lawyers and defendants, a court officer suggested they take some of the pro se defendants (those who represent themselves.)

Probably expecting a quick check-in, Judge Michael R. Kainen called Brown forward for his pre-trial conference on a charge of unlawful mischief. He had been charged in the Sept. 11, 2017 painting  over of a mural on a state-owned wall across from his Mill Tavern restaurant. Brown had pleaded not guilty to the charge on Feb. 6 after the Brattleboro Center for Restorative Justice returned his case to State’s Attorney Tracy Shriver who had arranged the diversion program to ameliorate the criminal charges.

Brown listens as State’s Attorney Tracy Shriver suggests giving him another shot at diversion

The restorative justice organization was supposed to act as an intermediary, helping the town of Londonderry and Brown come to an settlement for the action that Brown has never denied. With the Londonderry Select Board asking for restitution of $3,000 to go into a mural fund, Brown had offered to give $500 to the Flood Brook School, whose students had designed the mural. In early December, the board gave the center more time to “mediate” the situation and the case was handed back to the State’s Attorney when Brown did not respond.

Brown told the court that the mediation was lopsided and that’s why he stopped responding. He went on at length about the circumstances around the original painting of the wall, the condition of the wall before it was painted and the condition of the wall last fall. Brown showed photos and told stories. He was irrepressible, until finally Shriver asked the court to give diversion another chance. The judge agreed.

“It wasn’t your wall to paint,” cautioned Judge Kainen, “go talk to diversion. I strongly suggest you try to make it work.”

The covered wall after painting. The Mill Restaurant is to the left.

After court, Brown told The Telegraph that the reason that the mediation was lopsided was that the Town of Londonderry had paid for it.

“The town absolutely did not pay for the mediator,” Londonderry Town Administrator Robert Nied told The Telegraph on Tuesday. “That was handled by the court and the mediator was neither selected by nor paid by the town.”

Jackie Trepanier of the Brattleboro Center for Restorative Justice concurred, saying that it was technically not a mediation but a program that the center offers at no charge.

Outside the courtroom, Brown repeated his arguments first to Shriver who was arranging the paperwork for diversion and then to a waiting reporter and he remained strident. “The discord I had to live with visually was the same as giving a concert pianist a chain saw and asking him to make a cord of wood without earplugs.”

“I’ll go to jail for this, it’s the principle,” said Brown.

Jail notwithstanding, Brown’s next step is to try working with the Windham County  Center for Restorative Justice.

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  1. John Nunnikhoven says:

    Has anyone suggested that Ed apply his talents as an artist by leading a group of children, supervised by Flood Brook Art Dept., in painting an appropriate piece of art on the wall. Perhaps something reflective of the Londonderry area?

  2. Bruce Farr says:

    Taking a good look at the wall in the photo, and considering Ed’s closing his restaurant and presumably will have a little more time on his hands, is he available for any house painting?

  3. Leah Stearns says:

    I agree with Robert B. Mancuso, instead of “going to jail on principle” and ignoring any attempts to come to an agreement and fair restitution, he should actually be thankful that they are giving him a second chance to do this mediation with Brattleboro Center for Restorative Justice. He is just being plain obstinate at this point.

  4. Selective enforcement will only lead to problems with any future cases. His own arrogance has put him in this situation.

  5. Raymond Makul says:

    Time has passed, Ed is closing his restaurant, perhaps it is time for everyone to put this unfortunate error of judgement behind them and dedicate their energy to the future.