A South Burlington Police officer has resigned following an internal investigation.
The Chittenden County State’s Attorney Office said it would not prosecute her cases after an internal affairs investigation uncovered inconsistent statements about a domestic abuse case involving another police officer.
Detective Cassandra “Cassie” Ellison’s gave Vermont State Police a sworn statement in February about then-Winooski Police Officer Christopher Matott, who was charged later that month in both Grand Isle and Chittenden Counties in domestic abuse-related cases.
Ellison later provided two more sworn statements as part of the SBPD internal investigation and several inconsistencies surfaced between the three total interviews, according to documents obtained by The Other Paper through a Vermont Public Records request.
The internal investigation centered on Matott’s reported mistreatment of his intimate partner – and what Ellison and a second SBPD officer knew and when, officials said.
The Other Paper does not publish names of alleged victims of domestic or sexual violence.
State’s Attorney Sarah Fair George said those inconsistencies were enough for her office to stop using Ellison as a witness in any pending prosecutions. She said the office would not take any more criminal cases from Ellison – essentially ending her police career.
“These sworn statements are inconsistent in a way that calls into question her credibility and the trust that my office can place in her as a witness,” George said in a letter to South Burlington Police Chief Shawn Burke on June 23.
“Therefore, going forward, my office is unwilling to accept cases from her,” said George, who was required to report the inconsistent statements to any defense lawyers in pending cases with Ellison as a witness.
The SBPD internal report noted, “Det. Ellison’s failure to report persisted over a course of years and constitutes several instances of failure to report…”
The report, by South Burlington Lt. Jeffrey Martel, said Ellison gave a sworn statement to state police and “provided a different account, one more favorable” for internal affairs.
Ellison was interviewed by state police on Feb. 12 and by Martel on March 3 with her union lawyer present.
Martel said he recorded a second interview March 25 “given the disparities between her statements.” Ellison said after listening to the state police recorded interview her memory was flawed and she believed she was mixing up some information.
Burke said Ellison, who was hired in July 2015, submitted her resignation June 25.
Matott has pleaded not guilty to one felony count of unlawful restraint on Dec. 15, 2019, and denied five misdemeanors: three counts of domestic assault and two counts of criminal threatening, all in Grand Isle County.
Matott, 31, also pleaded not guilty to one felony count of aggravated domestic assault from 2018.
Burke disclosed on Feb. 21 that an internal investigation was starting, focused on Ellison and Patrol Cpl. Kelsey Monroe, based on information contained in the state police report on Matott, who left SBPD to join Winooski Police about 3 years ago.
State Police said the victim in the Matott case reported talking with two SBPD officers – Ellison and Monroe – about possible domestic violence by their former co-worker, Matott.
SBPD has a General Order for “Domestic Violence Response,” which includes a provision mandating “any officer of the department who witnesses or who has first-hand knowledge of a domestic violence incident involving another police officer to report,” Burke said in February.
The City of South Burlington, in response to the public records request, released on Monday the 16-page internal investigation report, George’s letter and a statement from Burke.
“As you will read, the conduct involving Matott is reprehensible,” Burke said in the statement to The Other Paper.
The internal report, like the court records, outlines Matott cheating on his partner and making violent death threats, which were recorded and shared with state police by his partner on Feb. 6.
Matott was not interviewed for the internal police report. Attempts to reach him and his lawyer were unsuccessful.
In Monroe’s case there was a November 2018 incident that she had discussed with Ellison as to whether they should report, but in the end they did not take action, the investigation indicated. Other information was secondhand or gossip and was not reported.
Burke said Monroe, an 8-year veteran of the department, received a formal letter of discipline for her file.
Monroe also had to review the 11-page department policy covering the reporting of possible misconduct by another officer.
“Our officers had insight into the domestic violence which occurred and failed to report. The integrity of the internal investigation process brought to light the information the City of South Burlington needed to move forward,” Burke said.
“We take our professional responsibilities very seriously, this investigation is evidence of the systems in place to hold ourselves and others accountable,” he said.
Matott gets fired
The Other Paper also learned this week that Matott was quietly fired by the city of Winooski.
Winooski City Manager Jessie Baker confirmed in an email that Matott “is no longer employed with the City. On March 26th, I made a disciplinary decision to end his employment with the City.”
Baker said the dismissal is currently going through the union grievance process, but did not say how far along that was.
Matott was hired by Winooski Police on July 12, 2017. He had worked alongside Ellison and Monroe while he was employed by South Burlington Police from 2014 until moving to the Winooski department. After working in the patrol division for Winooski for about two years, Matott was assigned to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force last fall.
Officials said as the investigation began to unfold, officers from State Police and Winooski Police accompanied Matott to his Alburgh residence to impound eight firearms – shotguns, rifles and handguns.
Matott, who is originally from Rouses Point, N.Y., was initially placed on paid leave by Winooski.
Four more criminal charges were filed against Matott last month. He pleaded not guilty to four counts of violating his conditions of release. Grand Isle County State’s Attorney Doug DiSabito said Matott ignored a judge’s order to stay away from the alleged victim’s home.