September 22, 2023


Equality opinion

Judge: Man may not be competent to be his own lawyer | News

A judge closed a hearing on the request by a local man to dismiss charges based on allegations that he threatened the speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives because the judge said he was concerned the man is not competent to represent himself.

Kyle Wolfe, 34, formerly of Williston, has been accused of sending a threatening email to House Speaker Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington, in October.

He has also been charged with violating conditions of release by “tagging” her on Facebook and allegedly violating curfew conditions.

Wolfe, who represents himself, filed motions asking the court to dismiss charges he had violated an abuse prevention order. A hearing in the case took place on Wednesday in the Rutland criminal court.

However, Judge David Fenster stopped the hearing after Wolfe made arguments that Fenster said were “broader” than the legal issues the hearing had been set to address.

“Some of the issues you raise are on point and others have been broader, but the court is beginning to have some concerns about your competency to represent yourself in this matter especially in light of your representation earlier about … why you may not have attended the stalking order hearing,” he said.

Wolfe had mentioned that he was in the Brattleboro Retreat during that hearing.

During the hearing in Rutland criminal court on Wednesday, Fenster said he has an obligation, if the matter continues and Wolfe continues to represent himself, to be sure that Wolfe is competent to do so.

He told Wolfe he had read the filings submitted by Wolfe and spoken to him several times but added the court has “some questions as to your competency to represent yourself.”

Wolfe said he found Fenster’s order of an evaluation “incredibly insulting” but said he would submit to the order.

Fenster said he was also going to recommend an attorney from the public defender’s office to the case. He told Wolfe that Wolfe would have flexibility about “how much they represent you and for what purposes and how long they represent you for, but I would like you to at least talk to them.”

“That’s fine,” Wolfe said. “It’s incredibly insulting, your honor. I will, but I’m going to leave Vermont at this point and try and get a job in a court somewhere else. I’ll do it, but I’m just letting you know, it’s incredibly insulting. But I get it, I didn’t pass the bar.” he said.

The term, “to pass the bar,” refers to passing the exam needed to earn a law degree and become a lawyer.

The case against Wolfe is based on allegations he caused a disturbance at the State House in October. Police who responded said Wolfe was yelling. They said they offered to talk to him in a side room but he became more agitated and said police were violating his rights.

Krowinski had talked to police about an email she found threatening that Wolfe had sent to her.

Wolfe had asked Krowinski to respond to a request he made for tax data in an email that said, in part, “if I do not receive at the very least, an email or phone call, within a month (11-04-2021), I am going to have to exercise my right to bare (sic) arms pertaining to improper seizure of Vermont inhabitants, tax payers, and voter’s property, of which I am.”

Wolfe allegedly told police at the State House that he had a rifle in his vehicle when he was taken into custody. After obtaining a search warrant, police said they found an unloaded muzzleloader inside a gun case in his car.

On May 27, Wolfe posted a video of himself with the gun and stated, in part, “And for the record, I have zero problems putting a government official to death based on the severity of the offense,” according to court records.

An affidavit said Wolfe was hospitalized for more than two months after the incident at the State House.

Chief Matthew Romei, of the Capitol Police, said in his affidavit accusing Wolfe of violating the stalking order that a final order against stalking ordered Wolfe to stay away from Krowinski and said he could not post to or about her on social media. Wolfe was served with the order on Dec. 28.

But Romei said Wolfe made a Facebook post on Feb. 15 with a photo of a rifle magazine with the caption, “How I Feel being Called ‘Crazy’ in Court” and on Feb. 27, Wolfe tagged Krowinski in a Facebook post asking others to contact her about proposed legislation. Romei noted Wolfe wrote a comment on the post stating, “Yes, I am aware this is technically ‘illegal’ Jill ….”

In February, Judge Kevin Griffin, in Washington County criminal court, ordered a competency and sanity evaluation of Wolfe but according to the Washington County State’s Attorney’s Office, as of Wednesday, no report has been issued yet.

In the filings by Wolfe, asking the charges against him be dismissed, he argued that his alleged threats were protected free speech under the First Amendment and parody.

Wolfe said the allegations in the affidavit quoting what he allegedly wrote about “putting a government official to death,” did not accurately represent his opinions or understanding of the Second Amendment.

“A reasonable person would conclude, upon reading that post, in its entirety, that (Wolfe) understood that the basic premise of the (Second) Amendment, is to protect the people from tyranny, but not to take democracy into their own hands, while trying to limit the collateral damage of firearms in the community, such as homicides resulting from domestic violence,” the filing said.

Ian Sullivan, chief deputy state’s attorney for Rutland County told Fenster there had been no discussions to date with Wolfe about resolving the case.

“My impression from the hearings we have had previously is that Mr. Wolfe’s view of the alleged conduct (is), there was nothing criminally culpable about it so I was interpreting that as having no interest in aiding any discussions about negotiations. If I’m wrong about that, I would be absolutely happy to have those discussions,” he said.

Wolfe said he would get back to the prosecutors’ office after a judge ruled on the motions he had filed.