Lawsuit Related to Traffic Stop Could Be Settled in Mediation
Mediation will be held this summer between lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont (ACLUV) and the state of Vermont concerning a traffic stop that occurred in 2014. The case involves a black male driver who was allegedly stopped illegally in the town of Wallingford by a Vermont State Police Trooper.
An update of the case was provided to the court by ACLU lawyers, at which point the mediation was ordered. Attorneys are now scheduled to meet with mediator James Spink on June 20th. An update is due back to the court in early July.
The case involves Gregory Zullo, age 25, who was stopped in March of 2014 by Trooper Lewis Hatch. Zullo filed a lawsuit that September claiming the traffic stop was illegal. According to Hatch, he stopped Zullo because his registration sticker was not fully visible because of snow on the vehicle. During the stop he noticed the smell of marijuana at which point he ordered Zullo to exit the vehicle.
Zullo agreed to a search of his body, but not of his vehicle. Hatch seized the vehicle to search it. The officer offered to drive Zullo to a nearby service station or to allow him to call someone for a ride after the vehicle was seized. Zullo refused both offers and walked back to Rutland.
Hatch was dismissed from his position with the Vermont State Police in 2016.
According to Zullo’s lawsuit, his rights were violated by the stop, the order to exit his vehicle, and the seizure of that vehicle. The court found in favor of the state. That January, the state supreme court overturned the lower court’s decision and found the stop and seizure in violation of Article 11 of the Vermont Constitution, which offers protection against unreasonable search and seizure.