Trial will be lengthy chapter for Manchester man accused of fraud

BENNINGTON -- The trial of a man accused of defrauding a number of prospective authors through his Manchester publishing company is scheduled to last three weeks, an unusually long time for a trial in Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division.

Peter Campbell-Copp, 63, of Manchester, is facing 15 charges of false pretenses or false tokens, three charges of bad checks, along with false advertising, and theft of services. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges, which started being brought against him in the summer of 2011 after police in Hinesburg received a complaint from an author who said Campbell-Copp had accepted money from him to publish a book but never came through on the agreement. The case was turned over to Manchester Police who furthered the investigation finding multiple people all with similar stories about their dealings with Campbell-Copp.

Similar to a Ponzi scheme

According to police, Campbell-Copp ran a publishing company called Historical Pages. Numerous authors told police they would give Campbell-Copp between $6,000 and $10,000 for him to edit, format, and publish their books. The said Campbell-Copp never came through on his end of the agreement, and police in Hinesburg described Campbell-Copp's activities as being similar to a Ponzi scheme.

Tuesday was a final jury calendar call hearing. A jury will be drawn next week, according to Court Clerk Mary Frost, who said the length of the trial, set to begin April 10 and go to April 30, presents some challenges to the court and to the jurors themselves.

"It's a huge imposition and sacrifice for someone to give up three weeks of their life to serve on such a trial," Frost said.

To make sure enough jurors can sit for the trial, the court plans to use a larger pool than normal, about 250 which is double the typical number. Frost said 14 or possibly 16 may sit on the actual jury itself with all but 12 being excused once deliberations begin. Frost said a letter was sent along with the jury summons explaining the length of the trial, which is not a normal practice. She said one of the weeks is a school vacation so she anticipates many will not be able to sit for the trial.

Frost said once every few years the court schedules a multi-week trial. The last was in November 2011, when for two weeks jurors heard the case of Russ Van Vleck, an Arlington man accused of causing the death of his 5-week-old son. Van Vleck was acquitted of a manslaughter charge. The trial involved the heavy use of expert medical witnesses giving testimony on complex evidence.

Frost said unless an employer pays a juror for their time off, that juror can collect a maximum of $30 per day from the court. The court pays a minimum of $15 on a half-day trial with $5 extra for each hour, the cap being $30.

Deputy State's Attorney Christina Rainville said she intends to call more than 20 witnesses, most of them alleged victims. She said the physical evidence will be mostly paperwork.

Campbell-Copp is being represented by attorney James Dingley, of Manchester, who did not return calls seeking comment.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.


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