BURLINGTON - Charlotte Dennett, the Progressive Party candidate for Vermont attorney general, said Thursday that if elected she would prosecute President Bush for murder.
Dennett, an attorney from Cambridge challenging incumbent Democrat William Sorrell, was joined by Vincent Bugliosi, a famed prosecutor who took on Charles Manson in the early 1970s, at a press conference in downtown Burlington.
As Vermont attorney general, Dennett said she would appoint Bugliosi, who published a book this year called "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder," as a special prosecutor to hold Bush accountable for deaths stemming from the Iraq war.
Dennett said Vermont is the ideal state to bring murder charges against Bush, since the state has carried the country's highest per capita deaths of soldiers in the war. It is also home to nearly 40 communities that moved to impeach the president last year.
"Lots of Vermonters feel very frustrated that the impeachment efforts did not go anywhere," she said. "This is another avenue for us."
Bugliosi, a 74-year-old Los Angeles resident and author of the famed "Helter Skelter" book about his prosecution of Manson, called Dennett a "valiant and patriotic woman" willing to put her reputation on the line to bring to justice what he sees as one of the worst criminal acts in recent history.
He told a small crowd gathered in downtown Burlington on Thursday morning that his book clearly lays out evidence showing that Bush and his administration misled the American people and the U.S. Congress into war in 2003.
"George Bush and his people have gotten away with thousands and thousands of murders," Bugliosi said, citing both American and Iraqi deaths in the five-year-old war. "We, the American people, cannot let him get away with this."
Bugliosi said any state attorney general or local district attorney can bring criminal charges against Bush once he leaves office early next year. He said Vermont could take on the soon-to-be ex-president by bringing conspiracy to murder charges against him, using his own public statements during the build-up to the Iraq war as evidence.
"Bush and his administration deliberately told lies to deceive people and get the support of the country behind the war," he said. "That information went out through the media and was heard by residents of the state of Vermont."
Sorrell said Thursday that promises to prosecute Bush for murder makes "good political sound bites," but said he does not believe he - or any other local or state prosecutor - has that authority.
To bring about a murder or conspiracy to murder charge against Bush, the actual crime - the death of an individual - would need to take place within his jurisdiction, Sorrell said, which in this case is the Green Mountain State.
"And if I remember correctly, Vermont is still the only state George Bush has not visited while president," Sorrell said.
Dennett said she read "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder" earlier this year and was interested in pursuing Bugliosi's notion that local prosecutors could bring criminal charges against the president.
She was put in touch with him through a friend who has a mutual publicist with Bugliosi. Within a half hour, the two were on the phone discussing the possibility of prosecuting Bush once he leaves office, she explained.
"Right away I felt a real rapport with him," she said.
But Dennett said she is not a single-issue candidate, adding that she is also interested in issues surrounding the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon and its proposal to extend its operating license beyond 2012.
When asked by a reporter if she thinks she has a chance against Sorrell, a well-entrenched incumbent, Dennett said she thinks the Democrat is a "nice man," but that her push to hold Bush accountable for the deaths in Iraq will "strike a chord" with Vermonters.
"I think I will have a groundswell of support," she said.
The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 4.