Friday November 9, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- A Brattleboro man who was providing firearms to a known drug dealer was sentenced on Thursday to five years in prison.

In addition, Andrew Eames, 25, was ordered by Chief United States District Judge Christina Reiss to serve three years supervised release after his incarceration ends.

According to a press release from the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont, Eames was sentenced for carrying and using a firearm in relation to a federal drug trafficking crime.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Nolan of the U.S. Attorney's Rutland Branch Office.

"A confidential informant informed the DEA that he had previously supplied Eames with cocaine and heroin and that Eames had distributed some of the drugs," said Nolan. "Eames paid the CI in cash and firearms."

According to court records, on March 13, the CI met with Eames in Brattleboro to arrange a trade. The meeting was recorded by the DEA, in which Eames offered the CI an "AK" and other firearms, according to the complaint.

"During the conversation, Eames referenced a pistol he had previously supplied to the CI," stated the complaint. "When the CI asked Eames which were the other firearms Eames had previously provided to him, Eames responded that he had brought the CI ‘tons of (stuff and) can't even remember it all.'"

Nolan said he had no comment on the status of other weapons Eames allegedly traded for drugs.

On March 22, in the driveway of a house in Brattleboro, Eames delivered an FEG model SA85 7.62 caliber rifle to the CI, who was working with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Eames expected to receive cocaine and heroin in exchange, which he intended to distribute further, stated the press release.

After Eames placed the gun in the trunk of the CI's vehicle, he was arrested by DEA and ATF agents. No drugs were exchanged after the weapon was delivered to the CI, said Nolan.

Though Eames initially denied exchanging the gun for drugs and that he had sold any drugs in the past, Eames eventually pleaded guilty to carrying and using a firearm in relation to a federal drug trafficking crime. Nolan explained that under federal law, using a gun isn't exclusively defined as actually firing it or carrying it for protection.

"He literally carried it and placed it in the trunk of the vehicle belonging to the CI. Under the law, using includes taking a firearm and trading it for drugs."

Eames was a 2005 graduate of Brattleboro Union High School and at the time of his arrest was on probation for misdemeanor possession of cocaine, which occurred while he was in Chittenden County. Rick Bates, the district manager of the Brattleboro Probation and Parole office, said at the time of his arrest, Eames was in possession of less than 2.5 grams of cocaine. In October 2011, Eames was sentenced to six to 12 months, all suspended but 30 days.

Because Eames has family in Brattleboro, Bates said he was living in Windham County.

Though no determination has yet been made, said Bates, the state has often ended supervision of defendants in similar cases that resulted in lengthy federal sentences.

Nolan said the nine months between arrest and sentencing was typical of a one-defendant, one-event prosecution.

"Some cases in federal court are resolved fairly quickly and some take a good bit of time," he said. "In a lot of ways, this case was not a very complicated case. This is a single transaction. He was providing a firearm to someone working with law enforcement."

Nolan also said he had no comment on whether anyone else is being investigated or will be charged in relation to any activities conducted by Eames.

United States Attorney Tristram J. Coffin commended the DEA and ATF for their joint investigation.

The prosecution was part of the U.S. Department of Justice's Project Safe Neighborhood, a nationwide commitment to reduce gun crime in America. Led by the U.S. Attorney's Office and ATF, Project Safe Neighborhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who violate federal gun laws.

For more information about Project Safe Neighborhood and Project Safe Vermont, visit: www.psn.gov.

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.