By Mike Donoghue, Reformer correspondent
BURLINGTON — Two Brattleboro residents – including one recently released from federal prison for her part in selling heroin in 2017 — have pleaded not guilty to new federal drug trafficking charges, court records show.
Victoria “Tori’ Pease, 31, and Dean M. Gero, 53, were ordered detained Thursday until separate detention hearings are held in U.S. District Court in Burlington on Wednesday.
Pease’s charge says she sold heroin and fentanyl on March 12, 2020 – just weeks after getting out of prison for the 2017 heroin sale, records show.
Gero denied a charge of selling fentanyl on April 3, 2019.
Federal Magistrate Judge John M. Conroy said he will hear arguments on whether each defendant is a risk to flee and whether they are a danger to the community, if released.
The indictments for each defendant provide no details of either case. Pease and Gero were named in separate indictments returned by a federal grand jury sitting in Rutland Aug. 12. The charges were sealed until they could be arrested Thursday by the Vermont Drug task Force.
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Conroy noted that Gero, who said he was disabled, has an extensive criminal record, but did not elaborate. Gero tested positive for several drugs, including cocaine, fentanyl and tramadol – a pain killer – before the court hearing, Conroy said.
Conroy noted Pease’s earlier federal drug distribution conviction in order that she be detained at least until Wednesday when the Pre-Trial Services Office will file a background check on her.
After her arrest in February 2017 for sale of heroin at the Holiday Inn Express a month earlier, Pease was held for about two months, records noted. They show she was later released to a residential treatment facility – Valley Vista. Pease attended the drug center twice in 2017 because she relapsed several times and was jailed again, a prosecutor said. A judge eventually sentenced Pease in January 2019 to time served – which equated to about 10 months.
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The federal sentencing guidelines had proposed a penalty between 24 and 30 months.
Pease learned she would be on strict supervised release terms for three years, but the federal probation office filed a violation complaint in August 2019 and an amended complaint in September 2019 and another second amended complaint in November 2019.
The violations included using opiates, fentanyl and cocaine, that Pease was untruthful when asked about her drug use, that she failed to report for random urine testing and Pease was terminated from a transitional housing program, court records show.
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She was detained from November 2019 until a final hearing in December 2019 when she was sentenced to 3 more months, but was told she would not be subject to any supervised conditions upon release.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Wendy Fuller noted that Pease resumed her old drug selling ways right after her release from prison.
Defense lawyer Katina Francis Ready of Bristol said she thought her client could be released to her mother and was concerned that Pease might contact COVID-19 in prison due to her health issues, including asthma.
Pease said she was unemployed and had last worked in housekeeping at a local hotel.
Conroy said Pease will have her case resolved in Burlington before Judge Christina Reiss. Ready has 60 days for pre-trial motions.
Gero will have his case resolved before Chief Federal Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford. The defense lawyer was given 90 days to file pre-trial motions.
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