Saturday December 22, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- A Bellows Falls woman pleaded guilty Thursday in connection with an assault that left a man bound, gagged and struggling to breathe.

Pamela Levey, 51, will serve four years of probation with severe restrictions including on-going counseling, random drug tests and random searches of her property.

Judge David Suntag said Levey acted "outrageously" and put the victim in danger of death or serious injury.

"That is far beyond what a law-abiding person should have done in those circumstances," Suntag said.

After responding to Levey's Morgan Street home Sept. 21, Bellows Falls police Detective Shane Harris told the Reformer that he had "never seen anything like that in my 22 years of law enforcement."

"I'd rather have read it in a book or watched it on TV than have had to experience it firsthand," Harris said at the time.

Police said a teenage boy rushed into the Bellows Falls station and said a man was being strangled. Investigators reported finding Levey screaming in the basement of her home, where the victim was tied to a bed and bound at the wrists with a shirt tied around his neck.

The man's face was red, and Harris said he heard gurgling sounds.

The victim had been intoxicated when he arrived at Levey's home and "wouldn't leave her alone," defense attorney Sarah Biolsi Vangel said in court Thursday.

In addition to using other restraints, Levey acknowledges tying a cloth over the man's mouth "so she wouldn't have to hear him anymore," Vangel said.


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Levey pleaded guilty to simple assault and reckless endangerment in connection with that case. She also pleaded guilty to grossly negligent operation of a vehicle in connection with an earlier drunken-driving case. And she pleaded to three counts of violating the terms of her release from custody -- once for failing to report as required to Bellows Falls police and twice for consuming alcohol, which she had been prohibited from doing.

David Gartenstein, Windham deputy state's attorney, noted Levey's thick file of court papers.

"The defendant has picked up seven dockets in a very short period of time," Gartenstein said.

He also said "there were substantial issues related to substance use and abuse" the day of the assault. So the prosecution offered a plea agreement "that is almost wholly rehabilitative in nature," Gartenstein said.

The sentence Suntag imposed calls for three to four years of imprisonment, but that incarceration is suspended in favor of probation as long as Levey adheres to many conditions related to controlling her substance abuse.

"This looks like a situation that could have turned out a great deal worse," Suntag said.

Levey told the judge she needs to continue treatment and get on with her life.

"I'm sorry and remorseful for what has taken place," she said.

In other proceedings Thursday in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division:

-- Zachariah McAllister, a suspect in a multi-state burglary ring, has a plea agreement in place, his attorney said Thursday. But that deal was not consummated during his appearance in court, as McAllister still is seeking a spot in a treatment program called Rise, defense attorney William Kraham said.

Suntag told McAllister that "we're trying to resolve it in a way that gets you into the Rise program as soon as they'll take you."

McAllister was charged earlier this year. After initially failing to appear in court, he allegedly led Bellows Falls police on a chase March 30, climbing into a church's bell tower before he was arrested.

-- A Keene, N.H., man suspected in a February robbery of Peoples United Bank in Bellows Falls appears headed for trial.

Chad Dustin, also represented by Vangel, had engaged in talks that might have resolved his case. "At this point, we're very far apart," Vangel told Suntag.

Gartenstein said he expects a trial lasting at least three days.

Another suspect in the robbery, Gerald Clough of Swanzey, N.H., has pleaded guilty. Amber Monty of Bellows Falls has been charged with aiding the robbery.

-- Patrick Devens, a 25-year-old Brattleboro man charged last month with sexually assaulting a victim who is less than 16 years old, has been calling the victim in violation of a court order since his release, Gartenstein said.

After hearing evidence of the phone calls, Suntag permitted Devens to remain free only if his parents -- with whom he is staying pending further court action -- agreed to disconnect their land-line phone.

"Mr. Devens may not handle or use a telephone of any kind," Suntag said. "His parents may not permit him to use a telephone."