Two face drug charges following search of Brattleboro hotel room

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BURLINGTON — Two Windham Country residents facing federal charges for conspiracy to distribute cocaine will remain in prison until at least Monday, a federal magistrate ruled Wednesday afternoon.

Jaylen "Cheech" Pryor, 18, of Jamaica and Holly Magnuson, 25, of Brattleboro were charged based in part on evidence found in a room at the Black Mountain Inn on Putney Road in Brattleboro on Tuesday night, where they were taken into custody, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court.

A man identified as Arthur Fisk also was issued a court citation to appear in Vermont Superior Court for a charge of possession of cocaine on Tuesday night, records show. Efforts to learn more about the state charge from Brattleboro Police on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

A Vermont Drug Task Force agent wrote that about 42.5 grams of crack cocaine and packaging were part of three plastic bags found in the hotel room. He described the contents as off-white rock-like substances consistent with cocaine base.

Another 8 grams was found in a handbag that contained two birth certificates, including one for "Holly Magnuson," the affidavit said. The second birth certificate had the name "Arthur Fisk," the detective wrote. He noted Western Union receipts with Pryor's name were located on a table in the room.

Brattleboro Police Officer Ryan Washburn confirmed with hotel management that Fisk had rented the room, records show.

Fisk later told State Police Sgt. Ryan Wood that Pryor was dealing drugs out of the hotel room and that it was likely that drugs remained inside, records show.

Pryor and Magnuson appeared for a brief hearing in court in Burlington late Tuesday, but Federal Magistrate Judge John M. Conroy said he was not prepared to consider their immediate release.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Boscia asked that both defendants be held as a danger to the community and that there are no known conditions that will ensure that each will appear in court as directed.

Conroy said the Pre-Trial Services Office needs more time to investigate the history of both defendants.

Burlington lawyer Mary Kehoe, on behalf of Magnuson, said they had been unable to communicate because of the defendant's condition.

"She is ill," Kehoe told the court.

Conroy agreed to let Magnuson sit for the reminder of the court hearing.

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Chief Federal Public Defender Michael Desautels said he hoped his client could be released pending the hearing on Monday afternoon.

Conroy denied the request, noting the Pre-Trial Services Office was able to report that Pryor had tested positive for cocaine. Pryor said he is unemployed and only had one job, working at McDonald's.

According to documents filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont, the Vermont Drug Task Force applied for the search warrant on Tuesday after drugs were turned up during a traffic stop on Putney Road.

During a discussion with an occupant of the vehicle, law enforcement learned there was cocaine in the vehicle. The occupant of the vehicle told officers the drugs had been obtained from a woman named Holly in "Cheech's Room" at the Putney Road hotel.

Following the traffic stop, investigators were watching the Putney Road hotel when they observed Fisk and Pryor exit the room and drive away. Shortly thereafter, the vehicle was stopped by the Vermont State Police for an expired inspection and defective tail light.

"In plain view on the center console, officers noted white bags commonly used to package heroin," stated the affidavit. "Officers located a plastic M&M tube, with crack pipe and 3 small rocks of crack, which Fisk admitted was his. Officers also located a crack pipe in the passenger-side door, and another white bag consistent with heroin packaging that was stamped 'superman 1.'"

A little later that same night, investigators observed two more people leave the hotel room. Brattleboro Police Officer Chad Emery conducted a motor vehicle stop for speeding and identified Magnuson as a passenger in a vehicle being driven by Lee Griffin. During a discussion with Magnuson, she turned over three pieces of crack cocaine and five bags of suspected heroin, notes the affidavit.

Griffin then was found in possession of a crack pipe and a piece of foil containing cocaine base.

The search warrant was served on the hotel room a little after 9:20 p.m. on Tuesday. During the search, investigators found three plastic bags containing 42.5 grams of an "off-white rocklike substance consistent in appearance with cocaine base." They discovered another eight grams in a handbag stashed between the box spring and the headboard of one of the beds in the room. The handbag contained two birth certificates, one in the name of Fisk and the other in the name of Magnuson, and on a table in the room, investigators located Western Union receipts bearing Pryor's name. Magnuson and Pryor were officially charged Wednesday with knowingly and willfully conspiring to distribute cocaine base, a Schedule II controlled substance.

Fisk was cited with simple possession of cocaine and released. The affidavit does not state whether Griffin was cited with a crime.

Pryor also has seen several interactions with police, Boscia wrote. He said Pryor was in a backroom at 125 Canal Street in Brattleboro on May 3, 2018 when 8 grams of crack cocaine were found, although somebody else took ownership. Four days later Brattleboro Police responded to the assault of a male drug user, who was covered in blood and Pryor was found nearby and matched the description of the assailant, Boscia said.

Both state and Brattleboro Police, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI and the task force are part of the joint investigation.

Mike Donoghue can be contacted at mdonoghue@smcvt.edu. Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or raudette@reformer.com.


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