Austin Mayhew

Austin Mayhew

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BENNINGTON — A Bennington man struggling with heroin addiction was released on conditions after pleading guilty to charges he racked up while on furlough.

Austin Mayhew, 33, has been held on a $10,000 bail for over a year, after violating his furlough and being arrested last July in this latest incident. He was released Tuesday after pleading guilty to unlawfully entering a residence with another individual, and trying to influence a victim to change his statement to police. Mayhew was sentenced to time served plus probation and conditions.

Mayhew was initially charged with burglary into an occupied dwelling and obstruction of justice for threatening a witness, demanding he recant his statement to police. Mayhew also was initially charged with one count of animal cruelty for kicking the door of the residence shut with a dog’s head wedged inside the doorway. As part of the plea deal, the animal cruelty charge was dropped, and the burglary charge was amended to accessary to unlawful entry.

Mayhew was sentenced to one-to-three years for unlawful trespass, all suspended, with one year to serve. In addition, he was sentenced to two-to-four years on the obstruction charge, also suspended, with one year to serve. Both sentences will run concurrently with a current felony sentence for heroin sales.

Mayhew already has served a year since his lockup last July and was released after the hearing with a five-year probation, including extensive conditions. Those included that no other crimes be committed; no using, possessing or purchasing any illegal drugs; random drug testing; warrantless searches; electronic monitoring; possible curfews; restriction on certain members of the community that might affect or influence his behavior; firearms restrictions; imposed treatment for substance abuse; and no violent or threatening behavior.

If Mayhew does not abide by the conditions, he could serve the entire four years of the sentence.

The sentence handed down exceeded the limits of the plea agreement by one year, a sentence that the judge felt helped balance the need for punishment with rehabilitation.

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“The defendant’s actions were fueled by his heroin addiction,” said Bennington Superior Judge Cortland Corsones before imposing the sentence. “The victim, in this case, feels that the defendant has spent enough time in jail and wants to see him released. He also hopes that the defendant gets the help he needs for his drug addiction so he can lead a productive life. All of the defendant’s serious crimes seem to be related to his substance abuse. ... Mr. Mayhew needs to take some personal responsibility for his actions to turn his life around. Otherwise, he will be spending a significant portion of his life in jail or, even worse, the victim of an overdose himself.”

Mayhew’s parents testified that Mayhew suffered from a longstanding substance use problem, which was the cause of many of his legal issues over the years, and that they hoped that he could receive the much-needed treatment to put these problems in the past.

They also testified to the overwhelming family support that he has and alluded to the many losses Mayhew has suffered over the past year, including two immediate family members and the overdose death of his fiancee in September, the other person involved in the July burglary. The mother and grandmother of the deceased were also present in the courtroom to show support for Mayhew.

“I’d just like to say that last year when this all happened, I wasn’t going to meetings or counseling or any of that,” said Mayhew when given a chance to speak by the judge. “I know I definitely need a lot of counseling. ... When I’ve gotten out in the past and put therapy on the back burner, it never worked out very well.”

Mayhew has an extensive criminal record in Vermont, including felony drug convictions and other burglary convictions dating back to 2009. He faced a maximum of 31 years behind bars if convicted of all initial counts against him.

“Mr. Mayhew, good luck to you,” Corsones told the defendant before ending the hearing. “Truth be told, I’m more worried about you than about any risk to the public with this sentence, given your history of challenges with substance abuse. Please take this and any mental health counseling extremely seriously, and reach out to the people there to support you whenever needed.”

“I will,” answered Mayhew before standing up to leave.


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