Two men who were in a truck when an off-duty Orange County Sheriff Department deputy fired two gunshots into their Jeep in a 2019 road rage incident are suing that now-former deputy and the head of the sheriff’s department for more than $500,000.
The lawsuit brought in federal court in Vermont this month by Nathan Lyonnaise and Kevin Goodale names William Pine — who has since been fired from his deputy job — and Orange County Sheriff William Bohnyak as defendants.
The law firm Sedon & Associates, P.C. announced the lawsuit in a press release this week.
Pine was found guilty by a jury following a trial in April on criminal charges stemming from the encounter. He was convicted on two criminal counts of aggravated assault and a third charge of providing a false statement to police. He’s scheduled to be sentenced in December.
Pine “assaulted Plaintiffs and deprived them of their clearly established constitutional rights,” causing emotional distress and other damages, attorney Michael Shane, representing Lyonnaise and Goodale, wrote in the nine-page lawsuit.
The plaintiffs also alleged that Bohnyak negligently hired, trained and retained Pine after being put on notice he was unfit for the job.
The lawsuit, a civil action, seeks $500,000 in punitive damages as well as compensatory damages “deemed just and reasonable.”
Bohnyak, in his own press release this week, confirmed that he had received a copy of the lawsuit and that he expects to prevail in litigation.
“Just because allegations are raised in a complaint does not mean that they are true,” the sheriff said. “We do not believe that the plaintiffs can prove the facts asserted. They are not accurate.”
Bohnyak added that he was “proud” of the work the department has done, and that he demands the “highest standards of professionalism from my deputies.”
Bohnyak, reached Wednesday, declined further comment.
Contact information for Pine could not be found on Wednesday. David Sleigh, who represented Pine in the criminal case, said late Wednesday afternoon he was aware that someone was trying to serve Pine with a lawsuit, but did not know of the details.
“I surmised it was the two folks who were going to sue him,” Sleigh added, declining further comment on the allegations. Sleigh also said he does not anticipate representing Pine in the civil case.
The road-rage episode took place on Oct. 7, 2019, after Pine, who was off duty and driving a Nissan Titan, followed a Jeep Wrangler on Stone Road in Williamstown for several miles, according to court records. Goodale and Lyonnaise were in the Jeep.
At the intersection of Route 64, Pine performed a “tactical maneuver,” trying to block in the Jeep, and yelled “deputy sheriff, don’t F-ing move,” Paul Barkus, one of the assistant attorneys general who prosecuted the case, previously told VTDigger.
At one point, Pine fired gunshots into the Jeep with one shattering the rear window as the vehicle fled toward Interstate 89, according to court testimony.
The lawsuit asserted that one shot missed hitting Lyonnaise by a “few inches.”
Pine, in an interview about the incident two days later with Vermont State Police, acknowledged he had a gun in his truck but did not admit to firing shots into the Jeep.
Pine had been placed on unpaid leave while the charges against him were pending. Bohnyak, the sheriff, terminated him following the verdict in April. Pine had worked for the sheriff’s department since 2017.
Shane, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said on Wednesday he filed the lawsuit on Oct. 7 based on the statute of limitations.
“That was literally the last day we could file it,” he said.
Shane said his claim that Pine was unfit was in many instances supported by court filings in the criminal case that led to convictions against him.
“There’s other reasons, too,” he said, later adding, “I’m not going to name names or anything because there’s a discovery process we’ll go through in due course.”
The lawsuit alleged that Pine had been involved in another road rage incident in “2016 or 2017” when he was working for the Berlin Police Department, which was part of his personnel file before his hiring by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
According to the lawsuit, two people were in a vehicle that drove by Pine’s vehicle when Pine “became enraged and chased them home at a high rate of speed,” boxing them in, flashing his badge and shouting at them, the lawsuit stated.
Bohnyak is currently president of the National Sheriffs’ Association, having been sworn in for a one-year term in June. First elected sheriff in November 2006, he has since been re-elected three other times.
Bohnyak, a Republican, is facing a challenge for another four-year term in the Nov. 8 election from George Contois, a Democrat.
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