BENNINGTON — A Sandgate man is accused of crashing a vehicle stolen from a farm and firing a gun at some paint cans inside a home he allegedly burgled, in addition to kicking a state trooper in the leg.
Brett W. Weber, 22, pleaded not guilty Monday in Vermont Superior Court to felony counts of burglary, burglary of an occupied dwelling, two counts grand larceny, using a weapon in the commission of a crime, aggravated vehicle operation without the owner's consent, and misdemeanor counts of unlawful mischief, driving with a license suspended for DUI, simple assault on a law enforcement officer, and violating release conditions. Deputy State's Attorney Robert Plunkett asked the court to place $20,000 bail on Weber, owing to the seriousness of the charges. Weber's attorney, Public Defender Jeff Rubin, argued that his client be released under conditions because there is little likelihood he will flee the court's jurisdiction owing to his ties to the community.
Judge David Howard ordered that Weber be released under no bail, but that he abide by a 24-hour curfew at a home in Sandgate. He is not allowed contact with the alleged victims, is not allowed to drink alcohol, and must submit to an alcohol test upon the request of law enforcement.
According to an affidavit by Vermont State Trooper Thomas Stange, on June 1 at 8:40 p.m. he went to West Sandgate Road where it was reported that a utility task vehicle (UTV) had crashed. Two people there said they saw Weber crash the UTV then run off. Stange learned that Weber's driver's license was suspended from a driving under the influence of alcohol conviction in 2011 and had not been reinstated.
One of the crash witnesses told Stange that Weber had come to his house at 8 p.m. with a number of items he claimed to have stolen from a nearby home, and a farm. Among the items were several rings, a small safe with coins, a wristwatch, and a bottle of perfume. Weber said he had fired a gun inside the home.
The male told Weber to return the items and about half an hour later saw him crash the UTV. He knew Weber does not own such a vehicle and suspected it was from the farm.
Stange said he found a ring lying in the road and took it as evidence. It was later identified as being stolen.
Stange and a Bennington County Sheriff's deputy went to the nearby home in question and found the owner recently returned. She had noticed a few things were missing, but had not searched the entire house. The items reported missing matched several Weber had allegedly displayed earlier. The owner valued them at $3,650.
In the basement of the home, police found a .22 caliber rifle that was normally kept upstairs. They found two spent shell casings and paint cans that appeared to have been shot.
Stange then went back to the crash scene where Weber and his mother had arrived. Weber appeared to be intoxicate and began to argue with his mother. Stange took him aside and Weber denied ever driving the UTV. When told he was under arrest and being searched, he threw himself onto the hood of the police cruiser and claimed Stange had shoved him. He then kicked Stange in the knee. He was generally uncooperative while being transported to the barracks where he appeared to black out a number of times in a holding area.
Police spoke to the caretaker at the nearby farm and he confirmed the UTV as belonging to the farm. He said two buildings there had been entered and that Washington County (N.Y.) Police had notified him that a bucket of tools with his name on it had been found off Camden Road in Salem, N.Y. He told police the bucket and the tools had been in the back of the UTV. He estimated their value at $1,365. There was also a hat found with the bucket, which the caretaker later told police matched one found on Weber as seen in a Facebook photo.
On June 4, the homeowner spoke to police again and said that on June 2 she contacted Weber asking for the missing items back as they held sentimental value for her. He denied taking them, then she said there would be no questions asked. This prompted him to ask if the items could be returned inside a bag. He then came to her with a few coins, a ring, and a few items that did not belong to her. She asked him about another item and he said he would try to find it.
— Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at 802-447-7567 Ext. 115