Lowe sentencing delayed for report
MIDDLEBURY — An Addison District Court sentencing hearing scheduled for Monday for former Vergennes police chief Mike Lowe was postponed to allow a Vermont Department of Corrections probation officer time to prepare a report that will be used in the proceeding.
Lowe on Jan. 11 accepted a deal with state prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of prescription drugs, a felony, and to one count of obtaining prescription drugs by fraud. Lowe also agreed not to contest a charge of neglect of duty.
Probation officer Sean O’Connell on March 5 requested the postponement until no earlier than April 7. State prosecutors — who are handling the case because of the inherent conflict of interest in the Addison County state’s attorney’s office — signed off on it, as did Lowe’s attorney, Richard Goldsborough of South Burlington. Judge Cortland Corsones granted the delay on March 10.
O’Connell this week said he was preparing a document to “assist the court in making a decision.”
In his request for a delay, O’Connell wrote, “The interview has been conducted with the defendant and with his attorney present. At this time, I need more time to gain collateral information and contact his treatment providers. I am writing at this time for paperwork from the defense regarding his inpatient out-of-state treatment.”
Attorney Robert Menzel from the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, one of two state prosecutors handling Lowe’s case, said he could not comment on any specifics, but said O’Connell would almost certainly be filing a “presentence investigation report.”
Menzel cited one statute and one set of court rules that he said were relevant.
The statute read, “A court … may in its discretion order the commissioner to submit a written report as to the circumstances of the alleged offense and the character and previous criminal history record of the person, with recommendation.” The statute mandated such a report if a defendant had been convicted of a felony, as Lowe has been.
According to the court rules, “The report of the presentence investigation shall contain any prior criminal record of the defendant and such information on his characteristics, his financial condition, and the circumstances affecting his behavior as may be helpful in imposing sentence or in granting probation or in the correctional treatment of the defendant.
In the January deal reached by Lowe and his attorney and state prosecutors, and approved by Corsones, other charges against Lowe were dropped — a second charge of obtaining prescription drugs by fraud, plus charges of embezzlement and illegal possession of prescription drugs.
Prosecutors also agreed to request a sentence ranging from 18 months to no more than four years in jail, and not to object to “recommendation of work camp for any incarcerative portion of the sentence imposed.”
Goldsborough said after that court session that he would seek a sentence without jail time for Lowe because of his faithful adherence to treatment, his acknowledgement of responsibility, and his record of service in Vergennes.
Menzel said on Jan. 11 that he and his co-council would seek a sentence within the range of the 18-month-to-four-year term outlined in the plea agreement.
Lowe, 51, who served the Vergennes force for eight years, resigned in September after two arraignments on six charges. He spent most of the summer in Florida undergoing treatment for addiction to prescription drugs.
Lowe’s legal troubles surfaced in June, when a city cruiser he was driving while off duty struck a parked car. On Jan. 11, he admitted that was a DUI-drugs accident. Court documents made public in August revealed that the attorney general’s office in June was already investigating Lowe for his drug problems at the time of the accident.
The other charge Lowe pleaded guilty to stemmed from his persuasion of an officer on the city force to turn over prescription drugs to him. The neglect of duty charge stemmed from his failure to return a gun used in a suicide to the victim’s family.
Lowe also allegedly traded that gun to another officer in exchange for the purchase of vitamin supplements and “fat-burner” pills, an act that led to the embezzlement charge that was dropped.
Lowe, although he has made no public comment since last summer, did ask last month on his Facebook page that letters of support be sent to Corsones in advance of his sentencing.
“I need your help,” he wrote. “If you are interested I need letters of support. Your comments as you perceived me as a person and a Police Chief would be nice … Thanks again for all your support.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].