Two defendants denied release
Brendan Fournier, 23, is charged with knowingly conspiring to distribute heroin and fentanyl in November and December in Bennington County, while Jonathan "Bovice" Resto, 23, is charged with intentionally distributing heroin on Nov. 14.
Fournier is considered a boss in the drug distribution business and took over after the fatal shooting of Steven Lovely, 43, and Amanda Sanderson, 35, on Oct. 27 in Townsend, court records show.
Lovely was believed to be Fournier's uncle, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Drescher told the court during his detention hearing on Thursday morning. One woman said she turned to Fournier for her drugs after Lovely was gunned down, court records show.
Justin Orwalt, 46, of Springfield, Mass., has been charged with two counts of aggravated murder and first degree arson for burning down the cabin where they were staying on Shirley Circle, Vermont State Police said.
According to court documents, Orwat has a lengthy criminal history, including a manslaughter charge from 1995. He was sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison for his part in a homicide committed by another gang member, Massachusetts Parole records show.
During the hearing Thursday, Magistrate Judge John M. Conroy agreed with Drescher that both Fournier and Resto need to be detained because they are each a danger to the community if released. Conroy made an additional finding that Resto also was a risk to flee. The judge said he would withhold a ruling concerning Fournier being a flight risk.
Conroy agreed to release Anthony "Ant" Casiano, 23, who is charged with knowingly distributing heroin and fentanyl in December in Bennington County.
Conroy said the Pretrial Services Officer had recommended Casiano's release. The judge noted he had a minor criminal record, including a possession of drugs charge in juvenile court in Holyoke in 2010.
The judge told Casiano that he is to refrain from possessing firearms, using alcohol and not commit any new violations or he would be sent back to jail.
Drescher said he agreed with the release of Casiano, but also asked that the court direct him to stay away from 10 witnesses and co-defendants. Defense lawyer Michael J. Straub said that would not be a problem.
All three are scheduled to have probable cause hearings on Jan. 4. Those would turn into arraignments if a grand jury indicts the defendants in the interim, the lawyers noted.
Efforts to free Resto hit a major road block. Drescher said the defendant was involved in drug sales, the weight of the evidence was strong, he has a substantial criminal record and when he was arrested he was in possession of $300 of marked money used by police for undercover drug buys. The record includes five felony convictions, mostly for burglaries, Drescher said.
He said Resto has an "extraordinary indifference for court orders." Drescher said he had lied about his cocaine use, only to test positive after his arrest. He added there is an arrest warrant in Massachusetts for failure to appear in court in Palmer, Mass.
Resto has several previous convictions and has a case pending in Massachusetts for interfering with a police officer and making threats, Drescher said.
Defense lawyer Karen Shingler said his two older brothers, Francisco Resto, 32, and Alex, 26, were willing to take him into their home and would report any pre-trial release violations. His mother, Anna Pena, also was in court, Shingler said.
Conroy noted the seriousness and nature of the charges in ordering Resto detained. He noted that Vermont is losing 5 or 6 persons a week due to overdoses of heroin or fentanyl. He said there were more than 1,000 bags of fentanyl when police raided his room at the Four Winds Country Motel on Main Street in Manchester. There also was 20 grams of cocaine and scales, Conroy noted.
The judge said while Resto appeared to have strong family ties it was not enough to sway the decision for release, even with electronic monitoring.
Fournier is detained
About a half hour after the hearing for Resto and Casiano ended, Fournier was led into the windowless courtroom by deputy U.S. Marshals.
Drescher cited the serious nature of the charges and the weight of the evidence. He said Fournier had $4,000 in a lock box in bed with him and was not far from the more than 1,000 bags of fentanyl in a safe between the two beds, Drescher said.
The prosecutor said evidence showed he had been conspiring for several months. After his arrest Fourier refused to take a drug test requested by the pretrial services officer to determine if he should be released pending trial.
Drescher said Fournier's latest drug trafficking came while he is on probation in Massachusetts for a recent firearms-related conviction - believed to be a felony. Drescher said he had been ordered not to get arrested for any new crimes or to leave Massachusetts.
Defense lawyer E. M. "Bud" Allen argued that Fournier should be allowed to return to Massachusetts and settle any dispute with his probation officer.
"Let him go home and deal with it," Allen proposed. Conroy said all the evidence showed Fournier needed to stay in prison pending trial.
Allen said Fournier's parents were enroute to federal court Thursday morning to try to help win his release, but were in a car crash in central Vermont.
Vermont State Police said Billie Jo Fournier, 49, of Holyoke, Mass., was northbound on Interstate 89 in Williamstown in a 2015 Hyundai Elantra when it hit a patch of ice and lost control about 9:20 a.m.
Her vehicle went off the right side of the road, rolled, and came to rest on its wheels, Sgt. Ray LeBlanc reported. He said her husband, Todd Fournier, 50, was transported to Central Vermont Medical Center due to reported back pain.
Mrs. Fournier and another passenger, Jack Byrnes, were uninjured, police said. The road was a mix of clear spots, ice and snow, LeBlanc said. The car was demolished.
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