Judge Rejects Plea Deal on Ex-Windsor Guard’s Smuggling Charge
Brett Jasinski, a former Windsor corrections officer, looks away at the end of his plea hearing after his plea deal was rejected at Windsor Superior Court in White River Junction, Vt., on June 10, 2014. Jasinski is charged with smuggling marijuana to an inmate in the state prison in Windsor in August of 2013. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
White River Junction — A Windsor Superior Court judge rejected a plea agreement that would have allowed a former correctional officer charged with smuggling marijuana into a Windsor prison to pay only a $500 penalty and spend no time in jail.
During 46-year-old Brett Jasinski’s arraignment in December, Judge Karen Carroll showed frustration that bringing marijuana into a detention center is only a misdemeanor and comes with a maximum punishment of only six months in prison and a $500 fine. She echoed those concerns on Tuesday when she rejected a plea deal that the state and Jasinski’s attorney brought before the court.
“One can only hope that our correctional facilities are free from the substances that are all over the state right now,” Carroll said. “I know this is a case that the public is concerned about. This is a person who is trusted in the facility charged with knowingly bringing contraband in.”
Carroll said the aim of sentencing is to provide deterrence so the public understands the serious consequences of the crime. The proposed sentence for Jasinski, she said, didn’t accomplish that goal.
“I feel that sends the wrong message and undermines the integrity of the correctional system and the integrity of the court as well.” Carroll said, adding, “I’m not going to accept this agreement until it is an agreement that has a punitive sanction in it because I feel it is due to Mr. Jasinski and something that the public expects in a case like this.”
Jasinski, of Chester, Vt., was a correctional officer at the Southeast State Correctional Facility in Windsor. Authorities allege Jasinski met a woman, Trisha Belliveau, of St. Johnsbury, on Aug. 23 at a parking lot off Exit 8 along Interstate 91 for an exchange of contraband for Belliveau’s boyfriend, inmate Wesley Kidder. Jasinski was allegedly given $150, three packs of cigarettes and two bags each containing an eighth of an ounce of marijuana.
A video tape at the Southeast State Correctional Facility shows Jasinski “hiding a small package in the garbage can right next to his desk” and an inmate picking it up later, according to a police affidavit.
When confronted, Jasinski denied smuggling marijuana into the facility, but told police he had smuggled cigarettes inside for inmates on five or six occasions.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Jasinski’s attorney, Melvin Fink, argued that Jasinski had been aware there were cigarettes in the plastic bag he was given by Belliveau, but he did not know it also contained marijuana because Jasinski did not inspect the bag. Fink said Jasinski assumes full responsibility for bringing contraband into the facility.
“He understands he should have known what was in that bag other than cigarettes,” Fink said.
Fink further argued that Jasinski has suffered personal damages from the charge, including publicity and the loss of his job at the correctional facility. He is now working as a maintenance man at an inn and took a considerable pay cut from the $15.79 an hour and state benefits he was receiving as a corrections department employee.
Fink went on to tell the judge that Jasinski has two sons from a former marriage and two step children from his current marriage of eight years, and these charges have put strain on those relationships.
“I can only suggest that the humiliation and reflection on damage to his family is continuing and ongoing,” Fink said.
Like Carroll, Deputy Windsor County State’s Attorney Rhonda Sheffield also expressed frustration — as she had during the December arraignment — that the charge was a misdemeanor that resulted in a short maximum prison sentence.
But Sheffield said the state took into account that Jasinski lost his job and the strained relationship with his family when it entered in the plea deal.
And crucially, Sheffield told the court, prosecutors were not able to obtain the video tape to introduce into evidence that showed Jasinski — according to a police affidavit — allegedly placing the contraband in a trash can to later be picked up by an inmate.
Sheffield also said that the state had weighed requiring Jasinski to serve time on a work crew along with a fine, but said Fink was concerned that Jasinski could run into other defendants that he may have previously overseen as a correctional officer.
In May, Fink filed a waiver of further appearances and a request to enter a plea, along with a $722 check — which includes Jasinski’s proposed fine and surcharges — to the court. Carroll did not accept the waiver and ordered the case to come before the court on Tuesday.
Both Fink and Sheffield declined to comment after the hearing. Jasinski also declined to comment, noting that he had been advised by his attorney not to say anything.
Belliveau pleaded guilty in February to a misdemeanor charge of smuggling marijuana into the detention center, the same charge that Jasinski faces. She was sentenced to three to six months in prison which was to be served concurrent with any sentence she might already be serving. Belliveau has a lengthy criminal record, including numerous counts of forgery and an escape custody-furlough conviction, in which she was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2011.
Kidder, who was in prison at the time of the incident, pleaded guilty to the transporting charge during his December arraignment and was sentenced to zero to 3 months to be served consecutively with his current sentence.
Sarah Brubeck can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3223.