BRATTLEBORO — Two men alleged to have been involved in a gunfire exchange in Putney over the weekend were arraigned on Monday.
Jason Robison, 41, of Bellows Falls, pleaded not guilty to aggravated assault with a weapon and reckless endangerment. The first count is a felony charge that carries a 15-year jail sentence. Robison was held on $2,500 bail.
Alfred Spellman, 36, of Putney, pleaded not guilty to the same charges. He was held on $5,000 bail.
Vermont State Police received a report of a verbal argument and shots being fired on Friday at 57 Hi Lo Biddy Road in Putney. The address is listed as Spellman's residence in court documents.
A witness also saw "what appeared to be a male subject walking backwards up Hi Lo Biddy Road" and firing a gun, according to an affidavit. A black Subaru was seen driving at a high rate of speed down the same road. Another witness identified Robison as the driver of the vehicle.
Robison admitted he was involved in the incident when questioned on scene, according to police. He was arrested for driving under the influence and reckless endangerment.
A witness told police that Robull Bryant, 37, of Putney, and Jason Bunch, 41, of Brooklyn, N.Y., were in a dispute over a $30 drug debt.
"The argument escalated until Alfred Spellman retrieved a firearm," police said. "At this time, Robison and (another male) attempted to leave the residence."
A witness claimed she saw Bryant and Spellman discharge rounds, according to the affidavit, and a handgun was pointed towards Robison and the other male. Robison and the other man left but returned to the house. The witness said Robison had a firearm that looked like a shotgun, which was pointed at Spellman on the front porch. The witness said she heard Robison fire the gun several times.
According to the affidavit, Bryant fired "blindly" at Robison inside the residence.
"At the same time, Robison fired at Bryant in what (the witness) described as a 'shoot out.' The 'shoot out' ended when Robison and (the other male) left the property," police said.
Bryant and Bunch have been under investigation by the Vermont Drug Task Force and Homeland Security Investigations since last year, suspected of trafficking heroin, powder cocaine, and crack cocaine in Windham County. In the spring of 2016, the VDTF learned from various sources of information that Bryant had moved his drug business from Brattleboro to Putney.
On Aug. 29, a complaint filed in the United States District Court for the District of Vermont was unsealed. In it, Bryant and Bunch are accused of "knowingly and intentionally" distributing cocaine base.
According to Eric Miller, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont, both Bryant and Bunch were in federal court on Monday at 2 p.m. "I have not heard if they were detained after the initial appearance or not, but that likely explains their absence from state court today," Miller told the Reformer. According to a document filed late on Monday afternoon, a detention hearing has been scheduled in federal court on Sept. 1.
The charges against the pair came about following an undercover investigation by the Vermont Drug Task Force that included the use of a confidential informant.
According to the complaint, on Aug. 11, the informant visited the Hi-Lo Biddy Road address in Putney to purchase crack cocaine. According to the complaint, Bryant lives at that address. Prior to the Aug. 11 transaction, the informant told investigators he had visited the residence in the past to purchase both heroin and crack cocaine.
Using a video/audio transmitter attached to the informant, members of the task force were able to see and hear the transaction, which involved both Bunch and Bryant. Via the video feed, investigators observed Bryant in possession of a silver revolver.
Investigators had reason to believe a shotgun was on the premises because two days before the transaction, investigators spoke with the mother of a former girlfriend of Bryant. The girlfriend, Amber Killmer, had lived at the residence on Hi-Lo Biddy Road but she is currently incarcerated on two state charges of possession of heroin and a charge of providing false information to law enforcement.
Via phone calls, Killmer described to her mother the extent of Bryant's drug-dealing operation and that he used a shotgun in the commission of a crime. She told her mother the shotgun was currently hidden on the property, above the garage door which can be accessed when the door is closed.
According to the complaint, Bryant is a felon, having been convicted of grand larceny in Virginia.
Since December 2014, Bryant has had a number of interactions with local police. That month, the Brattleboro Police Department took Bryant into custody as a fugitive from justice. His residence was listed as Brooklyn, N.Y., at the time. In August 2015, Brattleboro police arrested Bryant on an arrest warrant at a motel on Putney Road. One woman was cited for possession of heroin. In November, Bryant was in a single-vehicle crash in Newfane with three other people. One man in the car was cited for possession of cocaine after a Vermont State Police trooper found a pipe suspected of containing the drug. And in April, Bryant was in a car that was stopped on Canal Street in Brattleboro. Local police said the driver showed signs of impairment and was arrested for driving under the influence. Bryant was cited for possession of cocaine.
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