Documents reveal inquest in Sullivan case
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | June 13,2013
New filings in the hit-and-run case against former Rutland City official Christopher Sullivan show that prosecutors conducted secret inquest hearings before charges were brought.
Three weeks passed between the April 10 crash that killed 71-year-old Jane Outslay and the arrest of the attorney who pleaded innocent to felony counts of leaving the scene of a fatal crash and driving under the influence with death resulting.
Investigators and prosecutors with the Vermont attorney general’s office have been mostly close-mouthed about the reason for the delay in charging Sullivan, 53, who came to the city police department the day after the fatal crash to identify himself as the driver.
The lengthy investigation outraged some in the community who believed Sullivan was receiving special treatment. But investigators said the delays were due to a thorough investigation that included numerous interviews and the analysis of autopsy and crash reconstruction evidence.
In a motion filed in Rutland criminal court this month, an attorney representing an insurance company providing coverage to Sullivan indicated that prosecutors also conducted inquest hearings: closed-door court proceedings in which a witness answers a prosecutor’s questions under oath and in the presence of a judge.
“The state proceeded with a criminal inquest,” Springfield attorney Brendan Donahue wrote in a motion filed with the court June 7, adding that Sullivan’s wife was compelled to testify along with other witnesses. “The state subsequently filed charges against Mr. Sullivan.”
The content of the inquest proceedings is unknown. Assistant Attorney General Cindy Maguire, who is handling the case, declined to comment this week, as did Donahue.
The revelation that inquests were conducted was contained in a motion from Donahue who is trying to block a subpoena from prosecutors trying to obtain an insurance claim filed by the Sullivans.
Donahue, who represents GEICO auto insurance, wrote that Sullivan’s wife reported an incident to the insurance company April 11 but no recorded statement was obtained.
The motion doesn’t indicate whether the damage to Sullivan’s 2004 Lexus sedan was reported before or after he told police he was the driver in the crash. The subpoena ordered by the attorney general’s office indicates that prosecutors don’t know the answer to that question, either, as the request seeks “the time the claim was reported, who reported the claim and any statements made by the policy holders.”
After the initial claim was filed, Donahue said GEICO was directed to conduct all further communications regarding the claim through Rutland attorney William O’Rourke.
O’Rourke couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.
In his motion to quash the state’s subpoena, Donahue argues that the company shouldn’t be compelled to turn the claim over to prosecutors because the file is protected by a number of exemptions, including attorney-client privilege and insurer-insured privileges. He also asked that if the documents must be turned over that they be examined in a private hearing.
Donahue also argued that prosecutors didn’t need the insurance records because of the inquest hearing.
“The state cannot make any showing that it is in substantial need of the information it seeks or that it is unable to obtain the equivalent information without undue hardship,” Donahue wrote. “The state has the benefit of the police investigation as well as the inquest testimony it gathered from various witnesses, including Mrs. Sullivan.”
The attorney general’s office has not filed a response to the motion and no hearing date has been set to consider the request.
Prosecutors say Sullivan was impaired by alcohol when he struck and killed Outslay, of Mendon, who was crossing Strongs Avenue at about 5:10 p.m.
Investigators said the impact did considerable damage to the hood and windshield of Sullivan’s car — including a significant hole in the passenger side of the windshield — but Sullivan did not stop at the scene.
Instead, police say he drove to a parking lot in Rutland Town where he called his legal partner for advice before going home.
The court has set a trial ready date in Sullivan’s case for January 15.
Sullivan served in City Hall as the city attorney and assistant city attorney for 19 years until 2007.