Tuesday March 26, 2013

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- A former town officer is being held for lack of $50,000 bail after being charged with threatening his roommate with a gun.

Christopher J. Gagne, 38, of Union Street, a one-time town service officer for Bennington whose appointment was revoked by the Select Board last year over allegedly false credentials, pleaded not guilty Monday in Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division to first degree unlawful restraint with risk of injury, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and possessing a weapon while committing a crime. He was lodged at the Rutland jail and should he post bail he will not be allowed to have contact with Jamell Rogers or possess a weapon.

According to an affidavit by Bennington Police Officer Lawrence Cole, on March 15 he spoke to Rogers who had come to the Bennington Police Department with James Kinne and Daniel Turcotte to file a complaint. Rogers explained that he is Gagne's roommate at 218 Union St. and has been living there for a month, but had recently got into a dispute with Gagne over the managing of recording contracts.

In an interview, Turcotte told The Banner that he runs Soundmind, a recording studio, and had been in talks with Rogers to do some music recordings, however he was then contacted by Gagne who claimed to be Rogers' manager. Turcotte said he could not work with Rogers if he already had a manager, which prompted Rogers to confront Gagne about the claim which turned out to be false.

Heated argument

Cole wrote in his affidavit that Rogers and Gagne got into a heated argument in Rogers' bedroom at the Union Street apartment during which Gagne shoved Rogers against a closet and held him there. It was then that Kinne, who is involved in the recording business with Turcotte, arrived and entered the apartment when he heard yelling then tried to pull Gagne away from Rogers.

According to Kinne, Gagne said to get Rogers out of there or he would shoot him.

Rogers told police that while he was trying to push past Gagne and get out of the bedroom, Gagne was waving his hand and saying "I will you shoot you in your (expletive) head." He then saw Gagne put a handgun in the waistband of his shorts and realized the weapon had been what was in Gagne's hand while he was making the threat.

After getting around Gagne, Rogers left the home through the back door.

Cole wrote that police went to the apartment with a search warrant but did not find Gagne there. He was found at his mother's home in Williamstown, Mass., and arrested without incident by police there.

Deputy State's Attorney Alexander Burke requested that Judge Cortland Corsones place $100,000 bail on Gagne. He said Gagne was arrested in 2007 in Jefferson Parish, La., and is wanted in that state.

"An arrest warrant is currently active for the false imprisonment and armed weapon charge, as well as the false personation of a peace officer," Burke said, adding that Gagne has six violation of probation convictions on his record but no record of failure to appear for court hearings.

Gagne's attorney, Lucy McCarthy, said her client has strong ties to the area and disagreed with the state's characterization of his being at his mother's house when police were searching for him as having fled the state. She said she was also not prepared to agree that the information from the Jefferson Parish prosecutors is accurate.

Corsones said cash bail can only be levied to assure court appearances, and given the seriousness of the charges he would set it at $50,000.

In March Gagne was charged with taking a heater from a local contracting business after the owner of the firm hired him to repair it, having responded to an ad Gagne placed in the Tristate Pennysaver, according to police. The contractor went to police after not getting the heater back or hearing from Gagne for much of a year, and had learned it was Gagne who had it from Gagne's landlord, who is herself in a legal dispute with Gagne over rent and issues Gagne has brought up with fire safety. Gagne has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Last year the Select Board met in executive session and then announced it was revoking Gagne's appointment to a town service officer position based on information about Gagne's criminal record that was provided by police. Town officials said some of Gagne's references appeared to have issues.

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