BENNINGTON -- Two of three men arrested Friday in a high-profile drug raid on Pageant Street were arraigned Monday, with one being held on a significant amount of bail.
Thomas Keith, 41, pleaded not guilty to felony heroin sale, felony heroin possession, misdemeanor possession of heroin, selling drugs from a dwelling, and possession of narcotics. The state argued for him to be held on $150,000 bail, but Judge David Howard opted to set bail at $100,000. Keith was being held on half that since his arrest Friday.
His co-defendant, and owner of the 46 Pageant St. home, Kal-Joe Szabo, 71, pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor count of selling drugs from a dwelling. The state argued for $1,500 bail to be placed on him, but Howard opted to impose a reporting schedule at the Bennington Police Station for him to follow.
Attorney Jeff Rubin, who represented Szabo only for the arraignment, argued that Szabo has limited income from military benefits and that his house is in foreclosure, meaning he was not able to post bail but his ties to the area made him unlikely to flee.
Rubin, who represents Keith, argued that Keith also has ties to the area in the form a child.
According to Plunkett, Keith's criminal history shows he has connections to Georgia as well as Virginia, has been convicted of eluding police, and has in one instance failed to appear for a court date.
"As the charges here show, Mr. Keith has been drug dealing in our community for quite some time," said Plunkett, adding that the state intends to file more drug sale charges against Keith, as well as a charge for illegal tattooing.
"Mr. Keith, from what we understand, has been selling approximately 200 bags of heroin a day over a period of months," said Plunkett. "We also understand that Mr. Keith has been going to Massachusetts in order to procure drugs to sell here."
He raised these points to suggest Keith has the ability to post a high amount of bail.
According to an affidavit by Bennington Police Officer John F. Behan, on Thursday police were granted a search warrant for 46 Pageant St. because of an ongoing investigation of Keith for alleged drug sales.
Police wearing body armor and carrying assault rifles searched the home while being supported by a helicopter. Keith and Szabo were found in separate bedrooms on the home's first floor. Alfred Hickey, 43, was found in a stairwell and was cited for obstructing justice. A 15-year-old girl was also in the home.
In Keith's bed, police found five white "druggist folds" with the word "Presidente" on them in blue lettering. Each fold contained heroin. They found 70 more in a nightstand drawer, along with 10 morphine tablets. They also found $1,084 in cash.
Szabo denied knowing anything about the allegations Keith was distributing heroin from the home. He said Keith pays $75 each week to live there, and on two or three occasions has paid in bags of heroin. He admitted to driving Keith to Massachusetts on a number of occasions but did not know why Keith was going there. When police asked about the number of visitors Keith received, Szabo said he likewise did not know what that was about. He said Keith does tattoos at the house in order to make rent.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.