BURLINGTON — A Bellows Falls man serving an eight-and-a-half-year sentence for dealing drugs should not have approved his request for compassionate release.
"[Christopher] Paige presents a danger that cannot be addressed by conditions of supervised release," wrote U.S. Attorney for Vermont Christina Nolan, in opposition to the motion, which was filed on April 28.
"Mr. Paige is in terrible health making him particularly susceptible to COVID-19," wrote Public Defender David L. McColgin in the motion for release. Releasing Paige to home confinement, he wrote, "will help ensure that Mr. Paige does not die in custody ..." If released, Paige will return to Bellows Falls to live with his parents.
McColgin asked for a reduction in Paige's sentence to time served, spending the remainder in home confinement.
In October 2019, Paige was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years after pleading guilty to two counts of possession with intent to deliver more than 40 grams of fentanyl and possession of a weapon by a felon. Paige has been in custody since his arrest on Dec. 12, 2018. His scheduled release date is March 2, 2025.
Paige, now 40, pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute more than 40 grams of fentanyl, about 2,600 individual doses, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
At the time of his 2017 arrest, Paige had at least six prior felony convictions in federal and state courts, wrote Nolan. Those include: being an unlawful user of drugs in possession of a firearm as well as engaging in an unlawful interstate firearm transaction; obstruction of justice and marijuana cultivation; possession of more than 200 mg of heroin; possession of more than two grams of heroin.
"Four sets of felony convictions, each with their own multi-month prison sentence, did not deter Paige from committing the crimes for which he was convicted ..." wrote Nolan.
At the time of his arrest in Bellows Falls in 2017, agents found next to his bed a Bushmaster assault rifle with two magazines of ammunition and a bullet in the chamber. "The gun was leaning against the wall within arm's reach," wrote Nolan. "The two magazines of ammunition attached to the gun were taped together, a practice employed to facilitate re-loading after the first magazine is out of ammunition ..."
Nolan noted that at the time of the arrest, Paige was subject to pre-trial conditions out of state court.
"Clearly, pre-trial supervision and the opportunity for substance abuse treatment did not stop Paige from committing new crimes," she wrote. "Paige was detained based upon a finding that no combination of conditions would reasonably
assure the safety of any other person and the community and that conditions would also not assure his appearance in court."
Nolan noted that while he was in the custody of the United States Marshal Service before his sentencing, he received several disciplinary reports, including six for hiding syringes or buprenorphine within his body. "The last such incident occurred less than two weeks before he was sentenced," she wrote.
Nolan wrote that as of May 12 there are no MDC inmates testing positive for COVID-19, and six inmates have recovered from the disease, writes Nolan.
"Seventeen staff members are currently positive for the disease, and 20 staff have recovered. Nationwide, there have been 50 COVID-19 deaths among inmates. Zero have occurred at MDC Brooklyn."
The Bureau of Prisons has eliminated in-person visitation for the time being and has implemented social distancing when possible, including staggering meal times and recreation times, wrote Nolan. Other measures include checking temperatures of inmates and staff, limiting staff travel during the pandemic, screening all new inmates and separating out those who show symptoms.
"The Defendant has offered no evidence to suggest the MDC and the BOP more broadly are not taking seriously the pandemic or his own personal medical history," wrote Nolan. "His BOP medical records show that he is receiving a high degree of medical attention while at MDC Brooklyn. In 2020, his medical chart indicates he has visits with health care professionals (nurse practitioners, physician's assistants, or medical doctors) by video or in person more than once a month. ... Indeed, it is unclear whether Paige's risk of infection, and complication if infected, are greater within MDC than outside."
Bob Audette can be contacted