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Lowe appeal for less time denied

MIDDLEBURY — Former Vergennes Police Chief Michael Lowe’s case in Addison County District Court concluded on May 26, when Judge Cortland Corsones denied motions by Lowe’s attorney to reduce the six-month sentence the judge gave Lowe on May 5 for a felony count of obtaining prescription drugs by fraud.
Lowe, at 51 a nine-year veteran of the Vergennes Police Department, almost all of it as its chief, reported on May 12 to Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield to await transport to an out-of-state prison.
Lowe’s attorney, Richard Goldsborough of South Burlington, had argued in motions filed on May 10 and 17 that Lowe’s sentence should be reduced to three months.
Goldsborough made the central point that when Corsones sentenced Lowe to one-to-three years in prison with all but six months suspended, the judge recommended that Lowe be sent to the Caledonia Community Work Camp.
Under Corsones’ recommendation of serving time at that work camp, Goldsborough argued Lowe could have earned credit that would have meant his sentence would have been halved.
“A designation to a work camp facility would allow good time credit to the defendant that would effectively reduce the defendant’s incarcerative term to three months,” Goldsborough wrote in his first motion.
But the Department of Corrections opposed a work camp placement for Lowe because of what department officials called safety concerns for a former police officer. In court, prosecutor Robert Menzel from the Vermont Attorney General’s office also argued that the greater security and supervision offered at a prison would be more appropriate for Lowe’s safety.
In a May 5 letter to Goldsborough, Assistant Attorney General Kurt Kuehl reaffirmed that position: He wrote, “(the department’s) decision is based upon its obligation to take proper measures to protect Mr. Lowe’s safety and security.”
On May 26, Corsones declined to reconsider his sentence. At one point in his two-page decision, he wrote, “the parties, and the court, understood that any recommendation for work camp, was just that, a recommendation. The ultimate legal authority for this determination is the Department of Corrections.”
Corsones also wrote, “The court … is convinced that the sentence is appropriate, as it properly took into consideration the nature and circumstances of the crimes; the history and character of the defendant; the need for treatment/counseling; … and the effect of the sentence on the community.”
Corsones continued, “particularly the court balanced the defendant’s breach of public trust and position of authority against his personal struggles with addiction (and his current recovery), his clean record and the effects upon him, personally and professionally, of the crimes committed.”
Lowe pled guilty in January to one count of obtaining prescription drugs by fraud, a felony charge stemming from his pressuring a younger officer into giving his prescription drugs to the chief; that charge drew the six-month sentence.
He also pled guilty to a second charge of driving under the influence of prescription drugs and agreed not to contest a charge of neglect of duty. Corsones gave Lowe suspended sentences on those two charges.
Prosecutors agreed in a plea deal to drop a second charge of obtaining prescription drugs by fraud and charges of illegal possession or prescription drugs and embezzlement.
According to testimony at his Addison District Court sentencing hearing, Lowe has been undergoing treatment for addiction and has been off drugs since a June 2009 accident in a city cruiser brought his drug and legal woes to light.
At that sentencing hearing, a mental health expert also testified Lowe had been misdiagnosed for years with attention deficit disorder, when in fact he was suffering from bipolar disorder. The expert said much of Lowe’s behavior could be explained by his mental illness, which was now under control with proper medication.
Lowe’s probation officer as well as the mental health expert recommended against jail time for Lowe, who served the Vergennes department from 2001 until his resignation last summer.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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