BURLINGTON — A Pittsford woman, linked by authorities to a stolen Rutland gun that was used to shoot a New York City detective, has been released from prison so she can seek drug treatment while she awaits trial in a high-profile case in U.S. District Court in Burlington.
A federal magistrate cleared Jennifer R. Griffin, 44, to leave the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington on Saturday to enroll at Valley Vista, a drug treatment center in Vergennes, but little is known why because of a heavily redacted motion filed in court by her defense lawyer.
Federal Judge John M. Conroy initially ordered Griffin held following her arraignment on April 8 due to various reasons, including both serious drug and crime histories, court records show. Prosecutors maintained she had been distributing various controlled substances for an extended period.
Assistant Public Defender David McColgin asked for reconsideration on May 2, but his reasons remain unclear. He blacked out large chunks in his 4-page written motion that the public is allowed to inspect.
McColgin did note he was concerned about potential privacy interests for Griffin, but during a court hearing Friday afternoon McColgin acknowledged his client is a drug addict. Conroy did say during the hearing Griffin was seeking to go to Valley Vista for treatment.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nikolas P. Kerest said while the government would not oppose Griffin getting residential treatment, the prosecution was concerned about her potential aftercare.
Kerest said after Valley Vista, Griffin would apparently return to the same apartment she has lived for 13 years and have the same environment and other addicts there.
Conroy said it was a valid concern, but noted she would be subject to drug testing and home visits by the U.S. Pretrial Services Office.
McColgin said the plan is for Griffin to live there alone, although her daughter Kayla Ramos, 19, of Leicester could move in. Griffin told the court nobody else would be there.
McColgin said a bed would open at Valley Vista on Saturday and Ramos would drive her mother directly from the South Burlington prison to Vergennes. He said Griffin would be able to take advantage of a couple of drug programs after her discharge from Valley Vista.
Conroy said he was concerned with her track history – including her criminal conviction for dispensing cocaine at age 23.
McColgin said Griffin became an opiate addict only in the last three years. Griffin told the court she was a victim of domestic violence and was thrown down a flight of stairs. She said pain prescriptions helped her, but when they ran out, she turned to street drugs.
Conroy said he needed to be convinced that with her past criminal record that she was ready to turn the corner. Griffin said being held at the Essex County (N.Y.) Jail since her arrest she was able to fully detox. Methadone is unavailable from the jail, she said.
Griffin also said her son is getting out of the Marble Valley Correctional Facility shortly and she wants to be a good mother.
Griffin also said she has no place to go – a point confirmed by McColgin in some of the few lines that are public in his written motion. He said she has limited finances, she is collecting Supplemental Security Income and is on food stamps. He said Griffin reported she is unable to flee because she has no car, no savings and owns no property.
Conroy questioned how Griffin would get from Pittsford to Rutland for drug treatment. Griffin pledged her daughter would drive her.
Conroy eventually agreed to Griffin’s release, but warned her that if she misses any appointments that she will be returned to prison to await resolution of her criminal case. By noon Saturday she was no longer listed as an inmate at the South Burlington prison.
Griffin, Gregory R. Miller, 33, of Rutland, and Kenneth D. Stone Jr., 29, of Rutland all have denied the felony charge of conspiring with “others known and unknown to the grand jury” to use a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol in connection with a drug trafficking crime in 2017.
McColgin, in his motion, did say he was concerned that some information about Griffith’s release request could become public through the media or online court records.
He claimed – without public documentation -- Vermont media members have reported “direct quotes from defendants’ medical histories, substance abuse histories and proposed course of treatments” in other cases
The use of drugs by Griffin and her two co-defendants have been openly discussed by their three defense lawyers and by prosecutors during at least three earlier public court hearings. The arrests, arraignments and the detention hearings for the three defendants also were all public events. Various court records, including the detention requests by the prosecution and any judicial orders directing the detention or release of the defendants are public records.
After McColgin filed his redacted motion, a journalist petitioned the court to make public the non-public sections of the defense motion. The request was never ruled on. The journalist also was never notified of Griffin’s federal hearing held Friday afternoon.
The access petition noted the unprecedented nature of the blacked out motion in federal court in Vermont. The suggested cure was to reject concealment motions or as an alternative, that Griffin’s lawyer show cause to the court and public why the defense suddenly needed secrecy to surround the criminal case.
The indictment is for a high profile felony case. The .45-caliber handgun that police say was stolen in Rutland was reportedly used in a drug crime in Vermont.
Court papers and authorities have said the handgun also was used to shoot a highly decorated New York City Police detective while he was trying to make an arrest of an ex-con on July 6, 2018. That generated considerable public interest in New York City and the gun was traced to Rutland.
The newspaper and TV coverage has been extensive in New York, including the Police Commissioner visiting the wounded detective at the hospital. Later media pictures showed the wounded officer when he was eventually wheeled out of the hospital to go home to recover.
The New York City Police indicated 20 guns were stolen from the Rutland victim, who officials have said is a friend of the Griffin family.