BENNINGTON -- A former Bennington County Sheriff's deputy and police dispatcher is being accused of selling prescription medication through a woman he was having an affair with, and forging insurance documents for her.
Gary F. Harrington, 41, of Arlington, pleaded not guilty Thursday in Vermont Superior Court to three felony counts of narcotic sale, seven misdemeanor counts of narcotic possession, felony counts of extortion, forgery, and a misdemeanor count of neglect of duty by a public officer.
He has been fired from his position with the Bennington County Sheriff's Department, where he had worked on and off for the past 18 years, and has also been terminated from the Manchester Police Department where he worked as a dispatcher and special officer.
Judge Nancy Corsones, after hearing bail arguments, decided to keep the $10,000 bail that had been imposed on him at his arrest in place, but added conditions that he abide by a 24-hour curfew at his home, not leave the county, and not possess any firearms or drugs without valid prescriptions. He is allowed to leave his home for medical and legal appointments, and when he is within sight of his wife.
"When all is said and done, what's in the affidavit is not going to look anything like what the truth is," said Wright, who had argued against the state's request for $25,000 bail. He said his client has strong family ties to the area, no criminal record, and has done good work as a police officer.
Wright said he planned to raise issues with the complaining witnesses' credibility, and that the state's case it weaker than it appears from the affidavit.
Woman said he forged insurance documents
According to an affidavit by Bennington Police Sgt. Michael Plusch, on Wednesday he spoke to a 28-year-old woman who said Harrington had forged insurance documents for her, and given her prescription narcotics to sell.
She met him via Facebook in December 2013 and they became involved in a sexual relationship.
The woman worked at Bennington Schools at the time, and would meet Harrington while he was on duty. She was driving a car without a valid license at this time, which Harrington knew yet did nothing about.
When the woman left her job at Bennington Schools, Harrington made a comment on Facebook which made her think he would now use his position to arrest her or write her tickets. The post was deleted, but according to the affidavit police were able to recover it. It reads, "It's hard telling your colors when your a pill head. Hmm I can always use a new target!!!"
On March 14, the woman was in a motor vehicle crash that led her being taken to the hospital. Harrington arrived in uniform and she told him she did not have insurance. He said he would take care of it. The woman eventually bought car insurance, but not until March 21.
Harrington sent her an email on March 15 with an attached insurance card from Geico. The email read, "You have proof of insurance now as long as no one calls to verify. If you want me to give it to him I will and cross our fingers."
She said not long after that, Harrington picked her up and they rode around, then stopped at the sheriff's department where he took an insurance card from his vehicle's visor and brought it into the building. The woman said Wednesday was the first time she had heard of the forged card having been used.
When the crash was reported, the woman told police she did not have her insurance card. It was learned from another deputy that Harrington had gone to see the woman in the hospital and told other police he would drop her insurance card off later. Police learned from the deputy who processed the crash report that the card was dropped off and he listed it in the report, but it was now missing.
Police said that according to Geico no policy associated with the card's number exists.
In late April, Harrington started talking to her about purchasing a car so they could spend more time together while his cruiser was at the department. He gave her a handful of pills, a mix of Dilaudid, Vicodin, and morphine for her to sell on his behalf. Later he went to her home on Applegate Drive and gave her a bottle of Vicodin to sell, which she said was worth $350. On Monday he gave her five Suboxone strips worth $100 despite being a year past their expiration date. She gave him the money the following day.
Suboxone is used to treat opiate addiction.
It was on Wednesday she got into a verbal argument with Harrington, after which he left her a message on Facebook reading in part, "Don't contact me anymore or I will have you arrested for something. I'm done after that outburst. Omg you come hear to work things out and leave like that."
The woman said when she was called to the Bennington Police Department she thought she was being arrested.
She told police where Harrington keeps his medications. The apartment was searched and police found hundreds of prescription narcotics, including 239 two-milligram hydromorphine pills, 20 Tylenol with 30-milligrams of codeine, 18 five-milligram pills of Oxycodone, a bottle containing 20 milliliters of morphine oral solution, 175 pills of methadone, 197 eight-milligram pills of hydromorphine, and 19 15-milligram morphine pills.
The pill bottles did not have Harrington's name on them.
Harrington declined to speak to police.
Wright challenged Corsones' finding of probable cause on the possession charges, saying his client has suffered chronic back pain for many years and the medications in his home were prescribed to him and are just old. He said Harrington at one time was addicted to painkillers but has been prescribed Suboxone and has recovered.
Corsones said it strained credibility to think all of the pills found were possessed lawfully given their number and the opportunities Harrington would have had to dispose of them.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.