Woman accused of shooting firearms instructor in Vt. in 2015 to remain jailed

Published: 6/17/2019 9:52:23 PM
Modified: 6/17/2019 9:52:18 PM

BURLINGTON — Veronica Lewis, the woman accused of shooting her firearms instructor in Westford in 2015, will remain in federal custody as she faces two federal firearms charges.

Lewis’ attempted murder charge stemming from the shooting was recently dismissed by Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George, who said the state would be unable to disprove Lewis’ insanity defense.

Days after George announced her decision to dismiss the state charge, U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan filed two federal firearms charges against Lewis stemming from the shooting, which left the instructor, Darryl Montague, severely injured.

Montague lived in Claremont at the time but had a family home in Westford, where he ran a firearms business.

At Monday’s hearing at federal court in Burlington, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Ophardt argued that Lewis was a danger to the community and should remain in custody. His motion for detention was unopposed by Lewis’ attorney, federal defender Michael Desautels.

Ophart argued that Lewis was a “substantial” danger to the community if she were to be released and stop taking her medications. He said that the charges against her in federal court did not fully take into account her actions in 2015.

“It was a brutal shooting, one that left Mr. Montague severely injured,” Ophardt said.

Lewis is facing charges alleging that she stole one of Montague’s firearms as she fled the scene of the shooting and that she was in possession of a firearm despite being found mentally defective. Both charges carry a minimum sentence of 10 years.

Ophardt said that additional state charges had been brought against Lewis while she was in custody after Lewis assaulted a corrections officer and her psychiatrist. Both of those charges also were dismissed, court records show.

Desautels said that he did not oppose the detention motion filed by the government as Lewis had been released from her treatment plan by the state when she was arrested and charged by the federal government.

Since she was taken out of state care with the filing of the charges, Desautels said he was unaware of facilities available to treat Lewis at this time.

Lewis has been “doing really well for the last couple of years” on her current medication, Desautels said, and understood the charges against her.

Judge John Conroy granted the government’s motion to continue to detain Lewis with the understanding that the court could re-open the matter if new information arises.

Lewis has continued to receive her medication after being transferred from the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital in Berlin to federal custody after her arrest last week.

George dismissed the state charges against Lewis after two experts — one hired by the defense and one hired by the state — both determined Lewis was insane at the time of the shooting. Lewis was suffering from a schizoaffective disorder at the time of the attack, doctors determined.

Montague spent about a year following the shooting recovering at the University of Vermont Medical Center and still has problems with balance and short-term memory as the result of the shooting. He attended Monday’s hearing.

Attorney General T.J. Donovan is reviewing George’s decision to dismiss the state-level charges against Lewis and two other men facing murder charges who also utilized the insanity defense.

Gov. Phil Scott requested Donovan review the cases while saying he was concerned about the public safety implications of the dismissals. George has defended her decision and criticized Scott’s letter to Donovan requesting the review.

A hearing on probable cause in the case was scheduled for June 21 at 1 p.m. in Burlington.

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