Vermont (suspended) Attorney Melvin Neisner Jr. is a piece of trash.
Here is part one of what he did.
The operative facts in this case are largely uncontested and are laid out below with additional facts following in the body of the opinion. Defendant, a lawyer in Rutland County, was driving to his office alone one Saturday evening in September 2007. Turning north onto the Killington Access Road, a three-lane road with two north-bound lanes, he approached two motorcycles, which were traveling slowly and occupying both north-bound lanes. Defendant moved to pass the motorcycles, pulling into the left lane directly behind one of the riders—testimony conflicts as to how close to that motorcycle he came, possibly within eighteen inches. The rider in the left lane merged to the right, ahead of the second motorcycle, allowing defendant to pass. Defendant proceeded past both riders and pulled into the right lane ahead of the lead motorcycle, the rider who had been in the left lane. Less than ten seconds later, and without any clear provocation, defendant hit his brakes. The lead motorcycle braked and skidded before colliding with the rear of defendant’s SUV. The rider struck defendant’s vehicle and was thrown from his motorcycle. Defendant heard and felt the collision but continued to drive up the road and away from the accident without stopping. The second motorcycle rider continued after defendant’s vehicle, approaching close enough to obtain the license plate number. A few minutes later, defendant drove back past the accident scene, headed in the opposite direction. Again, he did not stop.
Upon approaching the lead motorcycle before passing it, there was testimony at trial suggesting that defendant was only eighteen inches from the rider’s back tire while driving between thirty and forty-five miles an hour. Upon passing the motorcycle and pulling ahead of it, defendant admits on appeal that the evidence at trial showed that he “braked too hard” under the circumstances. Testimony also showed that when he chose to apply his brakes, he was no more than twenty feet in front of the lead motorcycle and potentially as close as half a car length—“immediately in front” as the trial court described it. Moreover, there was no evidence presented that defendant had any reason to apply his brakes with such force, other than to frighten the motorcyclist. Defendant makes much of the time between his lane change and the impact, noting that all witnesses place the time as being between five and ten seconds; the implication being that the lead motorcycle was to blame for not slowing down and increasing the space between him and defendant. Yet this ignores the broader context: defendant had aggressively closed in on the motorcycles, had pulled immediately in front of the lead motorcycle while both vehicles were traveling at a significant speed, and had suddenly and without cause decelerated.
To make matters worse, he was drunk at the time (.123% BAC) and had his wife lie and say that she was driving — not him.
¶ 3. While driving alone from his home to his office on the evening of September 22, 2007, respondent found himself behind two motorcycles. Because he believed they were traveling under the speed limit, respondent then passed the motorcycles. As he did so, he thought he saw one of the motorcyclists glare at him. After he began driving in front of the motorcycles, respondent thought that the motorcycle drivers had begun tailgating him. Respondent first accelerated and then quickly braked. Respondent felt an impact on his car but did not think it seemed very hard. He neither saw an accident nor thought that one had occurred, so he continued driving to his office. He did notice that one of the motorcycles followed him briefly.
¶ 4. After arriving at his office, respondent turned around to drive home and get something for his daughter. As he once again passed the location where he had accelerated and braked, respondent saw cars on the side of the road. He did not stop. When respondent arrived home, he left a telephone message for his attorney. He also drank several alcoholic drinks and convinced his wife to lie on his behalf. To explain this behavior, respondent testified that he had panicked when he had arrived home after the accident: he feared that he would lose his license to practice, his family, and his status in the community. He also worried about the consequences if it were discovered that he had consumed alcoholic beverages at two wedding receptions before driving and causing the accident.
¶ 5. Shortly after respondent drove to his home, a state trooper received a report of a vehicle that had left the scene of an accident in Killington. While at the accident scene—where he found an ambulance, a person on a backboard, and a damaged motorcycle, as well as skid marks—the trooper heard that a Killington constable had recognized a description of the car that left the accident scene as belonging to respondent. When the trooper went to the home of respondent, respondent told him that his wife had been in a car accident. Respondent went on to tell the trooper that he had been in the passenger seat as his wife drove and that they had felt something hit the car after she tapped the breaks to deal with two motorcycles tailgating them. He also explained that, acting on his advice, his wife did not stop and, instead, drove home. When the officer asked respondent how close the motorcycles had been to their car, respondent replied that he could not see them when he turned. To demonstrate, respondent turned his head over his left shoulder, suggesting that he had been in the passenger seat of the car. Based on respondent’s statements, the trooper arrested respondent’s wife for leaving the scene of an accident, took her to the Vermont State Police Barracks in Rutland, processed and cited her, and released her to her attorney.
¶ 6. The following morning, respondent sought counseling for alcoholism. He testified that he also began attending meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous that evening. During the month following the accident, however, respondent did not tell any law enforcement authorities that he had falsely accused his wife or that he himself had been driving alone at the time of the accident.
¶ 7. The State scheduled an inquest for November 2, 2007, in the case against respondent’s wife. On October 29, 2007, the state trooper who had interviewed respondent and arrested his wife served subpoenas directing respondent’s wife, their two children, and another witness to appear at the inquest. The following day, respondent’s attorney called the investigating trooper to schedule a meeting. At the meeting on October 31, 2007, respondent arrived with his attorney. The trooper advised respondent of his rights. Respondent told the trooper that he had falsely implicated his wife on the evening of the accident. He confessed that he, not his wife, had been driving at the time of accident and submitted a written statement to this effect. (Opinion)
Despite that behavior, Neisner only received a two year suspension of his license to practice law because he cooperated with the investigation and cried “I’m an alcoholic.” (Opinion).
I can deal with him driving drunk. I can deal with him driving aggressively. I can even deal with him slamming on his brakes in front of another driver. However, when that other driver is a motorcyclist, the chance of killing the other driver increases exponentially. And, after engaging in conduct that was extremely likely to cause death or permanent injury to an innocent party, he lied to investigators about it and even got his wife to lie for him. If the Vermont Supreme Court feels that his character warrants giving him back his law license, I will defer to that body’s decision.
That said, I hope that the court of public opinion never lifts its sentence on this piece of shit. Once his suspension is over in two years, any future client who considers hiring this foul person as their attorney should take this history into account.
Hat Tip: Martha Neil @ ABA