BRATTLEBORO -- A man who pleaded guilty to trading firearms for drugs to a man convicted of causing the death of a Brattleboro woman were sentenced in U.S. District Court in Rutland on Friday.
According to a press release from the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont Robert Cappiallo, 29, of Windsor, was sentenced to 52 months in prison to be followed by two years of supervised release.
According to court records, including testimony in the trial of United States v. Frank Caraballo, in early July 2011, Cappiallo stole a Desert Eagle .357 handgun from his brother-in-law in Windsor and later traded this firearm in Ludlow to Caraballo to pay off a drug debt for heroin and crack cocaine and to obtain additional drugs. This firearm was never recovered.
In October 2013, Caraballo, of Holyoke, Mass., was convicted in federal court of causing the death of Melissa Barratt in July 2011. The prosecution contended Caraballo shot Barratt in the head because he suspected her of stealing thousands of dollars worth of drugs from him. After the two-week trial in Rutland, a jury found Caraballo guilty on several counts. Though it concluded Caraballo caused Barratt’s death, it could not find beyond a reasonable doubt he actually pulled the trigger of the firearm that killed her. The jury also found him guilty of distributing heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine and of being a felon in possession of a handgun. In a previous court proceeding, Caraballo had pleaded guilty to engaging in a drug-distribution conspiracy and had been sentenced to 16 years in prison. He is currently awaiting sentencing on the October conviction, but his defense attorneys are petitioning the court to overturn the jury on the basis the prosecution didn’t prove he caused the death of Barratt. A hearing on the petition is scheduled for later this month.
Cappiallo is just one of a number of people sentenced for their dealings with Caraballo.
Federal District Court Judge Christina Reiss previously sentenced Thomas Parrott, 33, of Bellows Falls, to 58 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release for trading a Glock 9mm handgun to Caraballo, for several grams of crack cocaine. According to the forensic evidence introduced at Caraballo’s trial, a Glock 9mm was used to murder Barratt, though the murder weapon was never recovered.
Following Caraballo’s conviction, three people who testified to helping him sell illegal drugs in and around Brattleboro were also sentenced in federal court.
Douglas Radcliffe, 30, of Bennington was sentenced to 20 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Kirstin Waterman, 23, of Brattleboro, was sentenced to time served followed by three years of supervised release. Toni Lynn Fontaine, 26, of Brownsville, was sentenced to time served with five years of supervised release to include six months of home detention.
Joshua Makhanda-Lopez, who testified he watched Caraballo shoot Barratt, was sentenced to seven years in prison, with four months of supervised release to follow. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine and heroin and to possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
Pamela Zygmont, 28, of Southampton, Mass., who is the mother of Caraballo’s child, was sentenced for conspiracy to distribute illegal drugs to two years in prison followed by three years of supervised release. She did not testify at the trial.
In the past few years, the United States Attorney’s Office has prosecuted several other individuals who obtained handguns for drug dealers, including drug addicts who traded such firearms for drugs, as well as the drug dealers who obtained such firearms. These firearms are often used to commit additional crimes.
"These cases tragically illustrate that firearms conveyed to drug dealers are often used to commit violent crimes," stated Tristram Coffin, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont. "These cases also show that it is unlikely that firearms illegally traded to drug dealers are used for lawful sporting purposes. The United States Attorney’s Office, with our partners at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, will continue to vigorously prosecute those who trade guns for drugs, purchase guns for drug dealers, or otherwise unlawfully put firearms in the hands of criminals."