An elected county sheriff in Vermont is denying several criminal charges, including an allegation of sexual assault.
Peter Newton, 50, who was elected to serve Addison County, has been under investigation since this past winter, Vermont State Police said. Detectives said a woman the sheriff knows made serious allegations of sexual assault, unlawful restraint, and other forms of violence.
Newton was arrested Tuesday and was arraigned in Chittenden County instead of in Addison County – to avoid conflicts of interest, including with his deputies who work in the courthouse in Middlebury. The state’s attorney for Washington County, Rory Thibault, handled the arraignment.
At that hearing Tuesday afternoon in Burlington, Newton entered not guilty pleas to four counts.
In a written statement, the Vermont Sheriffs’ Association said in part that it "appreciates the courage and efforts of the people involved in the investigation regarding Sheriff Peter Newton."
The statement from the association continued, "We are grateful to have a system of justice that pursues allegations made against a law enforcement officer that works to hold them accountable."
High Bailiff Dave Silberman of Addison County, whose position serves as a check on the powers of the county sheriff, called for the immediate resignation of Sheriff Newton.
"Like all people charged with crimes, Sheriff Newton deserves a presumption of innocence pending trial and conviction," Silberman said in a written statement. "However, it is simply impossible for Sheriff Newton to continue serving the community in a law enforcement capacity under the cloud of these very serious charges."
After Tuesday’s hearing, Newton was released on conditions that included not leaving Vermont, appearing in court when scheduled to, and staying at least 300 feet from the alleged victim. Newton departed court under a $100,000 unsecured bond. Thibault told reporters the suspect’s clean criminal record was a key reason he was able to be released on conditions.
Sheriff Newton was also ordered not to perform law enforcement duties. However, he did tell a group of reporters, "I’m still the sheriff," when leaving court. Newton declined to answer a follow-up question from a VTDigger reporter about how he could carry out the duties of his office.
In a video post to YouTube that is no longer available to view, Sheriff Newton announced in May that he would not seek reelection to a second term. The sheriff claimed in the video that people were trying to ruin his good reputation, and that those efforts led him to not run again to keep his office.
NBC5 News contributed to this report.