Former Royalton Police Officer to Serve 6 Months in Theft of Drugs From Police Evidence Closet

  • Former Royalton, Vt., police officer John Breault, right, arrives at the Federal Building in Burlington, Vt., on Thursday, July 12, 2018. Breault is being sentenced after pleading guilty earlier this year to a felony count of providing heroin from the police evidence closet to a former high school classmate, who was an addict. (Glenn Russell photograph)

Valley News Correspondent
Thursday, July 12, 2018

Burlington — Former Royalton police officer John Breault will spend six months in prison for providing heroin from the department’s evidence closet last year to a former high school classmate who was addicted.

U.S. District Judge Christina Reiss said during Breault’s sentencing hearing on Thursday that she was bothered that he violated a position of trust as a law enforcement officer. She agreed with federal prosecutor William Darrow that the public does not expect criminal conduct from police.

“It’s really about violating the oath,” Reiss said. She did give Breault credit for accepting responsibility early when confronted last year.

Reiss told Breault he will be under federal supervision for one year after his release from prison.

“I accept full responsibility for my decisions,” Breault told the judge as he also offered apologies to co-workers, police and the town.

“I have lost everything I have been passionate about,” he said. “I accept the consequences.”

Defense lawyer Robert Katims asked for no jail time and probation for Breault, who had spent nine years as a law enforcement officer, including eight with Royalton police. Katims said in his sentencing memo that Breault “faces a lifetime sentence of public shame and the untimely termination of his career and dreams.”

Darrow, the assistant U.S. attorney, said he supported a jail sentence of between six and 12 months, which was the recommendation of the federal sentencing guidelines.

Reiss reminded Breault his law enforcement job was to take drugs off the streets. She said he was lucky.

“One bag could be a killer. You’d have a real mess,” Reiss said.

Breault was painted during the hearing as a shy, awkward boy in high school, while the former classmate was good-looking and well liked. After graduating from Hesser College in New Hampshire, Breault returned to Vermont to begin his police career.

Several years after school, the female friend from high school was in a troubled marriage and she and Breault renewed their friendship about the time she separated from her estranged husband. Breault, who admired the woman, said she had been sober for a few months, otherwise he never would have connected with her.

He said she was a mother of two young girls and he wanted to help the family. The woman’s mother worked for the state Department of Corrections and understood the need for intervention.

Katims agreed Breault was attempting to rescue the woman from her drug addiction.

Breault, who turns 32 today, had pleaded guilty in March to the felony distribution of heroin last July.

Breault is due to report to prison on Aug. 21. The Federal Bureau of Prisons will determine where he serves his time, but Reiss agreed to recommend somewhere close to New Hampshire.

Katims supplied the court with about a dozen letters of support for Breault, who also served as a Randolph Village firefighter from 2010 to 2017. Among those writing support letters were Rita Hull, assistant town clerk and treasurer for Royalton, who said Breault was remorseful and had helped many people, including one person from an apparent drug overdose.

Gary Rogler, who worked with Breault for seven years, said he believed Breault’s “supplying his girlfriend with controlled substances was fueled by his need to feel wanted and accepted.”

Darrow noted in 2016 a Colchester, Vt., police detective, who stole drugs and cash — and also two guns — from an evidence locker for another addict received a 48-month prison term. The sentencing guidelines in that case had recommended between 57 and 71 months.

Darrow said Breault also had provided an evidence bag with marijuana to a second women. While investigating Breault for providing heroin to his high school classmate, it was determined a second woman had been handed an evidence bag containing marijuana on July 8, 2017.

Breault also allowed friends to drive a police cruiser and to go into the evidence closet, Darrow said.

Reiss said she questioned a letter from the state’s attorney that said no criminal cases were impacted.

Breault said the heroin he provided came from a drug seizure he made, but the defendant later was convicted for violating his probation from an earlier case. In the drug case, Breault seized 78 bags of heroin and 130 prescription pills during the arrest of 26-year-old Sterling Daniel, of Bethel, on June 21, 2017, court records show.

Federal investigators confronted Breault after the addicted former classmate told them that he had provided drugs to her. Breault immediately resigned his job.

Breault was named on Oct. 19 in a three-count indictment — two counts for distributing heroin and one for marijuana. The other two counts were dismissed on Thursday as part of the plea agreement.