Court Gavel

BURLINGTON — A Derby Line man, who officials say settled his drug debts by providing guns to his dealer, has been placed on three years of federal supervised release by a judge.

Noah D. Mercier, 39, had pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to a single felony charge of providing false written statements on Feb. 7, 2019, while buying a 9-mm pistol from Green Mountain Sporting Goods on Route 5 in Irasburg.

Records show Mercier claimed he was the actual buyer when the firearm was really being bought on behalf of someone else.

Massachusetts police recovered one of the firearms during an October 2019 traffic stop. The gun was linked through ballistics to a shooting in New Haven, Conn., on March 2, 2019, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugenia A.P. Cowles said in court papers.

An investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives eventually led to Mercier and what is known as a straw purchase – a criminal act in which a firearm is bought by one person on behalf of another who is unable to make the lawful purchase.

“As the recovery of one of those firearms demonstrates, straw purchased guns are often used in violent offenses. Mercier’s initial claim that the guns were stolen from him suggests that he too recognized the seriousness of handing over the firearms,” Cowles wrote in her sentencing memo.

Mercier initially pleaded not guilty after he was indicted in October 2020, but later admitted his guilt in February. As part of his plea agreement Mercier stipulated he had misrepresented himself as the purchaser, Cowles said.

He eventually admitted the purchases were for his drug dealer “and that he did so to pay off a drug debt,” she said.

Mercier, who was initially released on conditions by then-Magistrate Judge John M. Conroy, had remained free until his sentencing last month and had avoided any problems.

“His gun purchases came during a time he was using cocaine and cocaine base after a period of sobriety,” Cowles noted. She noted he had remained complaint during his pre-trial release.

“Mercier is the primary caretaker for his two young sons and has been the only constant presence in their life,” Assistant Federal Public Defender Elizabeth K. Quinn said in her sentencing memo. She said his parents, who live locally, are a positive source of support.

While the federal sentencing guidelines had suggested some jail time, the defense and prosecution agreed that based in part on his recent conduct that the court should forego the prison sentence and release him on federal supervision by the U.S. Probation Office.

Judge Christina Reiss imposed various conditions for supervised release, including that Mercier receives both substance abuse and mental health counseling and pays $100 in court costs.

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