BRATTLEBORO -- Facing a lengthy prison sentence for dealing heroin, Julio Davila couldn’t muster much of an apology last week in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division.
"I apologize for coming up here and messing up the community, I guess, if that’s what you want to call it," the Springfield, Mass., man said.
He moved on to taking responsibility "for whatever I’m allegedly accused of" before declaring that "I just want to go home. I’m sick and tired of this. That’s it."
Judge David Suntag wasn’t going to grant that request, sentencing Davila, 33, to serve five to 20 years in prison. Davila has spent the last 14 months behind bars and will receive credit for that time.
"I really, really was hoping to hear something that would tell me you get it, you understand what you did, you really are accepting responsibility ... for what you did," Suntag told Davila. "Not for what the jury said, but for what you did. And unfortunately, I didn’t hear it."
Davila was arrested in February 2013 with Joshua Hartwell of Brattleboro after the pair were implicated in drug deals totaling 240 bags of heroin and $2,400 in cash. Each of those transactions involved a confidential informant working with the Southeastern Vermont Drug Task Force, and the deals occurred under surveillance from Vermont State Police.
The first three buys happened off Western Avenue in Brattleboro, while the final and largest buy happened outside a gas station off Exit 4 of Interstate 91 in Dummerston.
Minutes after that deal, State Police stopped a Jeep Grand Cherokee with occupants including Davila and Hartwell. Police said Davila had $1,100 in cash that had been marked by the drug task force, while Hartwell had 40 bags of heroin and a $100 marked bill.
Hartwell, 26, eventually pleaded guilty to drug charges and was sentenced to four to eight years in prison. Davila went on trial in January and was convicted by a jury of dispensing 200 milligrams or more of heroin and aiding in commission of selling or dispensing a gram or more of heroin.
The latter charge carried a 20-year maximum. On Tuesday, Windham County Deputy State’s Attorney David Gartenstein requested that Davila be sentenced to eight to 15 years in prison, noting several "aggravating factors" in the case.
"This defendant is not an addict. He’s not addicted to heroin, and he’s not a user of heroin," Gartenstein said. "Essentially, this is a defendant who’s been trafficking poison into the state, across state lines, solely for profit, exploiting other people’s addictions."
Gartenstein cited Davila’s criminal record, which includes drug and assault convictions. He also mentioned Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin’s recent focus on the state’s heroin problem.
Defense attorney Kevin Rambold took issue with that.
"With all of that publicity, I don’t feel that my client should be made the poster child for punishment for that," Rambold said.
Rambold said his client had a rough childhood: His mother was killed by a bus in his presence, and his father "abandoned the family," leaving Davila to grow up in foster care.
As an adult, Rambold said, Davila was "engaged in a business where he was buying and selling cars."
"I would argue that he is an intelligent man -- that he does have a future," Rambold said. "He shouldn’t just be locked away and punished."
Rambold also asserted that it was Hartwell who "brought Mr. Davila into this. As the court will recall, the target of the Vermont Drug Task Force was Mr. Hartwell."
Suntag wasn’t buying that.
"You were peddling poison in Vermont for some people to make money," the judge said. "Whether or not Mr. Hartwell is as bad or not really doesn’t matter that much. You were both selling heroin."
Suntag went beyond Gartenstein’s request on the maximum sentence, ordering the 20-year maximum allowed for aiding in commission of a felony. The law allows for imposition of such a sentence, Suntag said, "when there’s no reasonable excuse for that conduct, and the conduct is as serious as that conduct can be. This is it."
The judge told Davila that, if he stays out of trouble in prison, he could cut down on his time behind bars.
"If that doesn’t happen, you’re just going to sit in jail for a really long time," Suntag said.
While Davila struck a conciliatory tone with Suntag as his sentence was imposed, he shouted obscenities as he was led from the courtroom.