BRATTLEBORO -- One of three people suspected of committing a rash of thefts from motor vehicles was arraigned in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division Thursday.
James E. Smith, 35, of Brattleboro, pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of petit larceny and two counts of unlawful mischief. Judge David Suntag continued the $5,000 bail that had been set after Smith was arrested at 1:30 a.m. on Nov. 14.
Windham County State's Attorney Tracy Shriver noted that Smith has some "minor convictions in the state of Vermont" and also has been convicted of violating court-ordered conditions of release.
"Mr. Smith has a significant criminal history in the state of Florida as well," Shriver said.
Court-appointed defense attorney Mandy Lewis argued that Smith has "significant ties to the community" including children in the area.
"He would like to be released so that he can meet those family obligations," Smith said.
But Suntag said the bail amount was "reasonable" given Smith's record, which includes failures to appear in court as recently as March.
"He's violated conditions before when they were imposed," Suntag said.
Also arrested on Nov. 14 were Arthur Jacobs, 18, and Crystal Jobe, 24, both of Brattleboro. Jacobs and Jobe were cited for petit larceny, unlawful mischief and credit card fraud. They were released and have been ordered to appear in court on Dec. 31.
In addition, on Nov. 12 at just past midnight, the Brattleboro Police Department arrested Michael Santiago and cited him with aggravated assault on a police officer, theft from a motor vehicle and credit card fraud. While it is unclear whether Santiago was working with Smith, Jacobs and Jobe, a police report identified Santiago as a suspect in a series of thefts from motor vehicles.
According to the affidavit related to Smith's arrest, "Information had been developed to indicate that Arthur Jacobs and James Eric Smith were persons of interest in this investigation."
On Nov. 14, Det. Jonathan Griffus and Officer Adam Belville were attempting to locate the pair when they received a call from dispatch at just past 10 p.m. that a man had just broken a window in a vehicle on Flat Street, near the Preston Lot. While they were attempting to track down the suspect, they spotted a vehicle that investigation had led them to believe was involved in the numerous vehicle break-ins.
Griffus and Belville stopped the vehicle, which was being operated by the owner of the vehicle. One of the passengers in the vehicle was Jacobs, who the driver said she was giving a ride to. Jacobs was brought back to the Brattleboro Police Department where he was shown a list of 16 vehicle break-ins and asked if he was involved in any of them.
Jacobs told the investigators that he had met Smith in early October and they began taking items from vehicles in Vernon. They then moved on to Brattleboro. Jacobs told police that Smith was the one who smashed out the windows before the thefts were made, though some of the thefts were made from vehicles that weren't locked. Jacobs also told police that the stolen items were sold and he used some of the money to pay for hotel rooms.
Following his arrest, Smith refused to speak with police.
According to court documents, items stolen included wallets containing money, change, two GPS units, prescription drugs, a power drill, a camera, a skill saw, a sleeping bag, an inflatable mattress, a Camelback, an iPad, gift cards, hand tools and a check book.
In Vermont, Smith has one felony and 11 misdemeanor convictions. In Florida, he has 20 convictions for various offenses, including burglary, larceny and driving under the influence, over the past five years.
According to court documents, Smith is also known as Timothy Owens.
Bob Audette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.
Reformer Staffer Mike Faher assisted in this report. He can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.