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Racetrack owner allegedly threatens teens over parking lot antics

The owner of the Devil’s Bowl Speedway is charged with holding three 17-year-olds at gunpoint for doing doughnuts in the parking lot.

Michael G. Bruno, 48, pleaded not guilty Monday in Rutland criminal court to eight charges stemming from the incident — five felonies (kidnapping, unlawful restraint, extortion and two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon) as well as misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment, aggravated disorderly conduct and reckless driving.

The kidnapping charge carries a potential life sentence. The other charges carry a potential combined maximum of 31 1/2 years. Bruno was released to the custody of his wife on $20,000 bail and several conditions, including that he observe a curfew when not at work. Judge David Fenster denied a prosecution request to hold Bruno without bail, but said he would set a 2 1/2-hour hearing for further arguments on the subject when time could be found in the court calendar.

Vermont State Police said they were contacted late Saturday by the teenagers, who said they were en route to the Crossgates Mall in Albany when they stopped at the racetrack to urinate in the parking lot. The youths said the driver did a doughnut and a half before they continued along Route 22A.

A short time later, according to affidavits, Bruno overtook them in his truck and pulled ahead of them, forcing them to stop. The teenagers said Bruno brandished a handgun and demanded their identification, then ordering them at gunpoint to return with him to the racetrack.

The trio complied, police said, and Bruno had the driver sign a contract pledging to return in the spring and repair the damage from the doughnuts. Police said they interviewed Bruno and he told them he had a gun in his pocket while speaking to the teenagers and then declined to answer further questions on advice from counsel.

In court Monday, Deputy State’s Attorney Lei Raymond Sun called the incident an extreme threat of violence in response to a minor property crime.

“The defendant could have very easily recorded the offending vehicle’s license plate and called the police,” he said.

Sun argued for Bruno, who had already posted the $20,000 bail following his arrest, to be held without bail, saying Bruno’s actions showed such a disregard for the law that it seemed unlikely he would abide by conditions of release.

Defense attorney Brian Marsicovetere, on the other hand, said there were inconsistencies to the three youths’ stories, including on whether Bruno actually pointed the gun at any of them.

“This was an incident that was blown out of proportion by three juveniles who were scared they were going to get into trouble for trespassing and destroying some property,” defense attorney Brian Marsicovetere said in court Monday. “They don’t even say specifically what the actual threats were. This gentleman was threatening to call the police on them, and that’s how we ended up where we ended up.”

On the bail argument, Marsicovetere pointed to Bruno’s extensive ties to the community, lack of any serious criminal record — aside from convictions in 2001 for excessive speed and disorderly conduct — and lack of any known history with the three teenagers.

“There is nothing in his background, nor has the state argued, that he’s likely to pose a danger to some random person in the community,” Marsicovetere said.

The judge ultimately agreed, though he said he would schedule the hearing to let the prosecution make its case against bail in greater detail.



FIS Women’s World Cup
Shiffrin cruises to 62nd World Cup win

KILLINGTON — Mikaela Shiffrin emerged from the sun, which sat directly atop Superstar.

The narrative coming into the FIS Women’s World Cup was centered on the 24-year-old American skier. Sweeping Killington would put her in second place for the most lifetime victories at the tournament and bring her that much closer to overtaking recordholder Lindsey Vonn.

The top female skiers in the world gathered in Killington for the fourth year in a row, competing in front of a crowd that was expected to total 40,000 in the course of the weekend. In an interview between races, Gov. Phil Scott called it the largest sporting event in the state and invited visitors from outside Vermont to “come back again.”

After two days of competition, Shiffrin ended the weekend tied for the second-most wins all-time, after taking gold in Sunday’s slalom event, which marked her 62nd World Cup win.

Saturday was the giant slalom, and Shiffrin was the third racer in the first run of the day, easily finishing faster than the two who went before her — German Viktoria Rebensburg and Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener.

Her lead didn’t last, though. Tessa Worley of France, who won the GS in the World Cup’s first year at Killington, claimed first place immediately after Shiffrin’s first run. Then she was displaced by Italian Marta Bassino after which Slovakian Petra Vlhova took second place and pushed Shiffrin down to fourth.

Before the first run was over, Shiffrin fell to fifth as Michelle Gisin, another Swiss racer, sped into third.

Alice Robinson, a 17-year-old up-and-comer from New Zealand, had been pegged as the big challenger to Shiffrin’s dominance after beating the American at a season-opening GS race in Austria. It was a feat the teenager wasn’t destined to repeat in Killington — she spun out and crashed hard, missing the cut-off for the second run.

The morning set of races ended with Shiffrin in fifth, separated from first by less than half a second. The 31 racers who qualified for the second run would return in the afternoon, going in the opposite order of their morning finishes.

Bitter cold didn’t keep the crowd away — the din of cowbells in the grandstand as nearly constant and shot up in volume when a racer reached the bottom.

“I love Killington, especially for the crowd,” Bassino said later in the day. “When I was there and all were screaming — it’s really emotional.”

Temperatures did perhaps make the noontime dance party led by DJ Logic relatively low-key by the standards of such events. A knot of well-bundled revelers pogoed in front of the stage. Most of the crowd was moving among the vender booths, where caterers selling $5 tacos and $15 personal pizzas were wedged in among various skiing companies.

Shriffin went late in the second run, starting strong but losing speed toward the bottom of the course — a problem among many of the racers — and finished behind then-leader Federica Brignone.

The American would go on to handily win the slalom competition on Sunday. She won by more than two seconds — the widest margin in a women’s slalom in three years, making it the fourth year in a row she has dominated that race in Killington. This tied her for second-most wins with Annamarie Moser-Proll, but overtaking the retired Austrian would have to wait for another day.

Ultimately Bassino held onto her early lead in the GS to score her first World Cup win Saturday, accepting the first-place trophy from Gov. Scott. Her countrywoman Brignone took second while Shiffrin, who apologized in a post-race interview that she “wasn’t just a little bit faster,” came in third.

“I felt like I was pushing a little too hard in the wrong way in the first,” she said, noting that her edges were cutting through the surface. “I tried to be aggressive and smooth in the second one and it worked.”

All three of Saturday’s top finishers said the course was well-prepared.

“It’s a slope where there’s no flat and there’s no really steep parts,” Brignone said. “You have to always push. … It’s changing and you have to adapt yourself during the run.”

The course had been shortened from what was originally planned due to high winds at the top.

“There’s a lot of speed in this hill,” Shiffrin said. “When it’s short like that you have to be fast, clean, no mistakes. It’s a little more challenging than you originally think, but that’s what makes it fun.”

The area warmed up a little through the day but temperatures were still in the mid-20s by the end of the second run. Far more of the crowd was moving toward the parking lot than toward the stage to see Grace Potter perform.

Shiffrin said she has learned to deal with nerves as a competitor, and traced her progress in that ability through each of the World Cups at Killington, which has hosted the event since 2016.

“That first year, I did feel a lot of pressure,” she said. “It was pretty miserable.”

She said that during the race, a random fan in the crowd sent her a message on Instagram, saying they were just happy to have the skiers here and to be able to see the races.

“It was a really meaningful thing to hear or to read at that time,” she said.

Shiffrin said that each year, she has felt a little better.

“By this time, I’ve realized that people want to see an American on top, but nobody really cares,” she said. “When I don’t win, I’m like, wow — people have moved on from that really quick. Maybe I should, too. That mindset has helped me enjoy this more. … All in all, it’s still a pretty good day.”



Clarendon opts out of new flood maps

CLARENDON — The town wants no part of the federal government’s efforts to update floodplain maps.

At its Nov. 25 meeting, the Select Board voted unanimously to approve a motion from Selectman Robert Congdon to “... authorize the chairman of the Planning Commission to include in their letter that the town Select Board has resolved that they also want no part of any further FEMA mapping in the town of Clarendon, as what stands is sufficient.”

The letter is being sent to Scott Olson, of the U.S. Geological Survey, according to the minutes from the meeting.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Geological Survey are working to update the floodplain maps for the Otter Creek watershed. Whether a property is in a floodplain or not can affect what local and state regulations apply to it, as well as whether or not it needs flood insurance.

“You know the old saying about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions?” said Brownson Spencer, chairman of the Planning Commission. “That’s what the Planning Commission feels is going on here. Ever since (Tropical Storm Irene), there’s been sort of a push to say the storm we’ve always been regulated by is the so-called 100-year storm, but Irene is now the new 100-year storm, which many of us don’t believe to be the case. We think it was much bigger than 100-year storm. So, the Planning Commission’s position is that increasing the properties that are going to be subject to flood insurance is bad for the town for several reasons.”

He said being in a floodplain restricts what one can do with a property, thereby lowering its value, which affects the tax base. Flood insurance is also expensive, he said.

“Our biggest concern is there’s not much benefit, and a whole lot of pain would come with increasing the number of properties in town subject to flood hazard insurance,” he said.

Congdon wondered if the town could opt-out of the mapping process. Selectman Cash Ruane said if the town doesn’t offer any input, it risks having the process go forward without it having a say.

“I think we will get a chance,” said Spencer. “It’s a multi-step process. Right now what they’re talking about doing is the mapping. We should be able to see the results of the mapping, and from that we’ll get an idea of what they’re thinking.”

Spencer said he believes FEMA is seeking to increase the number of properties in floodplains so it can sell more insurance through a program it offers.

Several board members expressed their displeasure with several planning and regulatory agencies, the Rutland Regional Planning Commission and the Agency of Natural Resources among them.

“As far as I’m concerned, having dealt with ANR of late, I’m sick of it,” said Select Board Chairman Mike Klopchin. “Everything wants to make Burlington look pretty, everyone else winds up high and dry. I’m totally in agreement with this motion and I can’t wait to see the finished letter that comes from our town.”

Spencer was also appointed as Clarendon’s representative to the Rutland Regional Planning Commission after the position had been posted for some time with no response.

Rutland Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Ed Bove said Monday his agency has nothing to do with the flood mapping beyond letting towns know FEMA is doing it and helping them offer input. He said he doesn’t believe it’s something a town can opt in or out of.




Cyber Surge

Cyber Monday was tracking to be the biggest online shopping day of the year, up about 19% from 2018, although most deals had been online for weeks. A3

RHD Hotspot


Moonlight Madness

Construction is done and the decorations are up. Shops are open late into the evening with discounts, treats and door prize drawings. Over 20 vendors up and downstairs in the Town Hall. 4-9 p.m. Brandon, info@brandon.org, 802-247-3744.