Ritchie drops opposition to guilty plea in burglary spree

MIDDLEBURY — An Addison County Superior Court hearing on Tuesday cleared the way for an Addison man to be sentenced for his role in a rash of burglaries in the first half of 2013.
Raymond Ritchie, 38, faces 13 years to life in prison when Judge Robert Mello delivers his sentence in a hearing set to begin at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 17.
The case has drawn a lot of attention since Vermont State Police arrested Ritchie at the Algonquin Drive home he shared with Nicole Bergos on July 31, 2013. Police at the time said they identified property from 52 victims at Ritchie’s Addison home. Addison County and Brandon had seen a spike in daytime home burglaries that year that had prompted the organization of a neighborhood watch organization in Addison and convinced many local residents to lock their homes.
Ritchie was ultimately charged with 10 felony crimes — six counts of burglary, three counts of unlawful trespass of an occupied residence and one count of possession of stolen goods. The breadth of the crime wave is one thing that made it so remarkable. The burglaries and trespasses of which Ritchie was charged occurred in Weybridge, Shoreham, Brandon, Middlebury, Cornwall and Addison (the last at a home that is a nine-minute drive from Ritchie’s own home).
According to court documents Ritchie agreed in April to a deal that would mean 13 years in prison for pleading guilty. But in May Ritchie — who has prior felony convictions and has been held without bail for a year — and his then court-appointed public defender James Gratton, filed a motion asking that those guilty pleas be withdrawn, effectively seeking to end the plea agreement. Last month Judge Mello appointed a new attorney for Ritchie — Michael McClallen.
On Tuesday McClallen appeared in court without Ritchie, who McClallen said “declined to be transported” from the state prison in St. Johnsbury. McClallen told Judge Mello that Ritchie would like to “withdraw his motion to withdraw” his earlier plea, which the judge accepted and moved to set a date for sentencing.
Addison County State’s Attorney David Fenster asked Mello to set aside a full day for sentencing in case there is a large number of Ritchie’s victims who want to speak at the hearing.
In a conference with the seven victims who attended Tuesday’s hearing (Ritchie’s victims have shown up at every hearing, sometimes swelling to 40 or more people) Fenster explained that the judge will, before sentencing, have seen a pre-sentence investigation that includes lots of victim statements. And acknowledging that verbal statements may simply repeat what the judge already knows, Fenster said that some people may nevertheless wish to make those victim’s statements.
“For some this can be an opportunity for catharsis, to stand up and say what you have to say in Mr. Ritchie’s presence,” Fenster told the group whose homes had been burglarized. “In the end it is up to each of the victims whether they want to speak.”
Ritchie faces the potential life sentence because he is considered a habitual offender, having been found guilty of 10 previous felonies, including some for burglary and trespass. In addition, court records show that Ritchie has been convicted of 14 misdemeanor cases.
Ritchie’s string of felony convictions goes back to 1994, when he was sentenced to one-to-five years in jail for an attempted burglary in Burlington. Earlier, in March 1993, when he was 16, Ritchie was convicted of a misdemeanor count of unlawful trespass in Rutland and sentenced to three days in jail, according to court records.
His last conviction was on a burglary charge in Essex in 2005; a burglary charge in 2008 in St. Albans was dismissed.
Nicole Burgos, 30, who was described as Ritchie’s girlfriend, is herself still in legal jeopardy. She has been charged with three felony offenses — possession of stolen property (as with Ritchie, this refers to the items found at their home which were stolen in 52 burglaries), cultivation of more than three marijuana plants, and driving under the influence on Oct. 26, 2013. Fenster said those charges are still pending.

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