2 charged with supplying drugs that resulted in man's death
BENNINGTON - Two Bennington men pleaded not guilty Friday to charges in connection with an investigation stemming from the heroin overdose death of a 28-year-old man in Bennington on July 8.
John Chapman, 27 and Bradley Haynes, 29, were both charged in relation to the suspected heroin overdose death of Michael Chinnici.
Chapman pleaded not guilty in Vermont Superior Court, Bennington Criminal Division to seven felony charges: sale of heroin with death resulting, conspiracy to sell heroin, two counts of sale of heroin, heroin trafficking, possession of cocaine and manslaughter in the death of Chinnici.
The manslaughter charge carries a punishment of up to 15 years in prison, a fine of up to $3,000, or both. The charge of heroin trafficking is punishable by up to 30 years in prison, a fine of no more than $1 million, or both. The other charges carry a maximum prison sentence of five years, except for the sale of heroin with death resulting charge, which carries a sentence of a minimum of 2 to a maximum of 20 years.
Haynes pleaded not guilty to felony charges of sale of heroin with death resulting and conspiracy to sell heroin. He faces imprisonment of up to 20 years on the sale of heroin with death resulting charge.
Judge William Cohen granted the state's request to hold Chapman without bail, pending a weight of evidence hearing. He was also ordered not to harass particular people connected with the case, including Haynes, or to have contact with Haynes.
Cohen imposed $50,000 bail, cash or surety on Haynes, and imposed multiple conditions of release, including a requirement that he live in Bennington County, abide by a 24/7 curfew and not have contact with or harass Chapman.
Bennington Police officers found Chinnici unconscious in the bathroom of a home in Bennington at about 6:15 p.m. on Monday, July 8, said Sgt. Larry Cole of the Bennington Police Department in an affidavit filed with the court. Officers administered Narcan and performed CPR along with Bennington Rescue Squad personnel. Chinnici showed a slight heartbeat and was taken to Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
It is believed he died from a heroin overdose.
Earlier that day, Chinnici's brother texted Chapman to arrange for the purchase of the heroin, according to the affidavit. The brothers arranged to meet a person named "Brad" on Norton Street, who Chinnici's brother identified as a "runner" for Chapman — someone who delivers drugs for someone else.
Chinnici and his brother met with Brad and drove to Crescent Manor Nursing Home in Bennington. As they drove there, Brad was given $50 and he handed back six bags of heroin, and the two brothers returned home.
Chinnici's brother kept four of the six bags, which he used to make a "smoothie," according to the affidavit. He went into Chinnici's bedroom to ask if he wanted one, and he found him unconscious.
Through security footage from two separate cameras, officials identified Brad as Bradley Haynes.
After he was arrested on July 18, Haynes told authorities he delivered drugs for Chapman to support his own heroin addiction, according to the affidavit.
He also said he was given heroin by Chapman that he then gave to Chinnici.
On executing a search warrant at Chapman's home on Thursday, officials found 961 bags of heroin, and in a Skittles/Twix can in his basement were an additional 45 bags of heroin, 11 Tramdol bills, $112 in cash and 1 gram of crack cocaine, along with another 9 grams of crack cocaine in the basement, according to the affidavit. The affidavit states that Chapman does have a criminal history in the state of Vermont. A separate affidavit, also by Sgt. Larry Cole, states that Haynes does not.
Jonathan Ward, representing Chapman, contested four of the seven charges, all of which involve particular amounts of heroin, saying they should be dismissed.
"The only basis for the weight of the alleged drugs that were taken is a note from the Vermont forensic lab saying that the average weight of bags of heroin collected last year was a certain amount," he said. "There is no scientific basis to extrapolate that average to any other instance. There is no correlation between the average amount that's seized and [the] particular amount here."
No officer has testified that they have weighed the materials seized themselves, he said. He also said the manslaughter charge should be dismissed, arguing that no elements of the alleged offenses include an act of violence.
"The instance here is some narcotic or drug was transferred to another, as is with any kind of drug transaction, and unfortunately, a death resulted here," he said. "It is not a felony crime of violence."
At least, this should not be the basis to hold without bail, he said. "Regarding the whole without bail request — I don't think there's enough there," he said.
Deputy State's Attorney Alexander Burke responded that the court has consistently considered the affidavits of Trisha Conti, director of the Vermont Forensic Laboratory, regarding the average weight of heroin in bags in the state of Vermont.
"For probable cause purposes, that is clearly sufficient," he said.
Haynes was represented at Friday's hearing by Matthew Hart, who filled in for attorney Thomas Enzor.
According to an obituary posted on legacy.com, Chinnici was a resident of Indiana at the time of his death. He had attended Southern Vermont College, where he studied criminal law.
Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and at 802-447-7567, ext. 118.
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