KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- Two courtrooms had to be used Wednesday as roughly 47 people were arraigned on felony drug charges stemming from a county-wide drug sting multiple police agencies conducted that same day.
"These are drug dealers who were arrested based on an undercover operation," said Deputy State’s Attorney Robert Plunkett as he argued for bail to be placed on one of the many defendants. "These are drug dealers who are poisoning people who are addicted to drugs, to make money for whatever reason."
Plunkett was responding to an argument made by Public Defender Lucy McCarthy regarding one of her clients who was facing four felony drug charges. McCarthy argued the amount of drugs allegedly found in Jasmine Brock’s possession was small, and further argued her client has strong ties to the community.
In Vermont, bail can only be used to ensure a defendant shows up to court as scheduled and does not flee the court’s jurisdiction. At arraignment hearings where bail and conditions of release are discussed, factors such as a defendant’s previous record of attending court, their ties to the local jurisdiction and other states, and the severity of the charges against them can be determining factors for a judge when deciding bail amounts.
The state requested bail be set on most of the cases with amounts ranging from $10,000 to $200,000. Plunkett said while in some instances the amount of alleged drugs found was small, these arrests represent the results of ongoing undercover operations into drug sale activities that went on for a period of time.
Some defendants were released on strict conditions with no bail, while all who were able to post bail also had tight conditions. Daris Carter, 33, who according to a list police made public, was charged with three counts of selling cocaine and three counts of possession of cocaine, was released by Judge Cortland Corsones on the conditions he obey a 24-hour curfew at the Thatcher House on Pleasant Street, which is a homeless shelter. He must also not leave the county and can not possess firearms or dangerous weapons. Plunkett had requested $25,000 bail be placed on Carter, who Plunkett said has 17 misdemeanor convictions, while Carter’s attorney, Frederick Bragdon, said Carter has no record of failing to appear for court hearings.
Plunkett told the court that the ties between many of the defendants were important as the state feared some would undermine the prosecution by speaking with each other about various cases. According to Plunkett, at least four of those charged in the sweep have ties to the Bloods, a street gang based in California. Plunkett said those four include William McLaughlin, 34, Jeremy Fantauzzi, 26, Jafari Tyrell, 22, and Raymond Williams, 33.
According to the list released by police, McLaughlin and Tyrell were not arrested in the sweep. McLaughlin is currently incarcerated and facing pending charges out of Bennington. Fantauzzi pleaded not guilty to four felony counts of cocaine sale, five counts of conspiracy to sell drugs, three felony counts of heroin sale, three felony counts of heroin possession, and four misdemeanor cocaine possession. The state argued for $200,000 bail be placed on him but Judge Karen Caroll placed half that, and should he post it he will be under a 24-hour curfew, not permitted to leave the county, and not allowed to possess a firearm or other dangerous weapon.
As of 2 p.m. the court had planned to arraign 33 defendants. At 3 p.m. the decision was made to open another court room so Corsones and Caroll could preside over more cases. Court staff was kept fairly busy during the day making it difficult for the press to get access to court documents.