Cape & Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe announced today that the Massachusetts Appeals Court has affirmed the judgment of contempt against witness John Viust in the first degree murder trial of Robert Vacher.
The defendant, John Viust, was called as a witness at the trial of Robert Vacher. Viust was appointed counsel, and the Court determined that he had a Fifth Amendment privilege. The Commonwealth then granted Viust immunity from prosecution. Viust, however, still refused to testify after a detailed and lengthy colloquy by the Court. The judge explained that if he refused to testify, he would be found in contempt. The defendant still refused to testify. The Court found the defendant’s behavior was in contempt of court.
The Massachusetts Appeals Court rejected all of the defendant’s claims of error, and affirmed the judgment of contempt. The defendant argued that since he was not sworn in as a witness, he could not be held in contempt. The Court held that refusing to testify during an ongoing court proceeding, regardless if the witness is sworn, is sufficient to hold a witness in contempt.
The defendant was sentenced to 90 days in the House of Correction, from and after the sentence he was serving for an unrelated case. The Robert Vacher trial and John Viust’s sentencing for contempt were both handled by Assistant District Attorney Lisa F. Edmonds. On appeal, the case was briefed and argued by Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth A. Sweeney.