Accused Burglar Denies Charges Of Trying To Sell Drugs To Corrections Officer After Breaking Into Home

Caledonia County Courthouse Court St. Johnsbury

A local man is accused of breaking into the Lyndon home of a corrections officer Thursday morning and offering to sell the officer drugs on his way out of the house.

Christopher Coughlin, 41, of East Burke, was arraigned on a resulting charge of burglary in Caledonia Superior Court on Thursday afternoon. He appeared before Judge Michael Harris via video from a room inside the Northeast Regional Correctional Facility. Through attorney Sam Swopes, Coughlin pleaded not guilty to the felony charge.

Swope and Caledonia County State’s Attorney Jessica Zaleski appeared in the courtroom for the hearing. Everyone in the courtroom was masked.

Zaleski was successful in her request for a $5,000 bail order. As justification, she referenced her plan to prosecute Coughlin as a habitual offender for his number of felony charges. She also said his criminal record shows he’s not good about making court appearances because in the past he has failed eight times to make it to scheduled court hearings.

Swope argued against the bail request, mentioning Coughlin’s limited financial resources and that he has ties to Vermont that will keep him here. Swope also said eight failures to appear isn’t so bad considering the number of charges Coughlin has on his criminal record.

“Although Mr. Coughlin has eight failures to appear as Ms. Zaleski noted, that is in the context of 77 total charges … so that’s actually a pretty good record given those numbers,” he said.

Judge Harris decided to impose the bail request. He said it is a serious offense that Coughlin is charged with committing, and there’s potential for a major penalty in light of the habitual offender enhancement. He said he is also concerned for public safety and the level of Coughlin’s apparent drug abuse.

“I’m considering what appears to be uncontrolled and untreated substance abuse,” the judge said.

Coughlin is jailed at the moment not for the burglary but for a parole violation. He will go before the parole board on July 22. The board may extend his jail stay or determine a plan to release him.

If that happens, the judicial orders from the burglary arraignment will apply, including the bail requirement.

Should Coughlin be freed from jail while this case is pending, he’ll be restricted by several conditions, including no drugs without a prescription, a 24-hour curfew at an approved residence and that he be released into the custody of a court-approved adult.

He also must have no contact with Scott Lawrence, Mariah Almy and a 16-year-old boy.

The teenager and Lawrence are the ones who reportedly encountered Coughlin inside Lawrence’s home Thursday morning.

According to Trooper David Garces’ affidavit, Lawrence reported that a shirtless Coughlin was in his home. Lawrence is a corrections officer and said he recognized Coughlin as he stood in Lawrence’s living room from past incarcerations.

Lawrence told the trooper that Coughlin walked into his nephew’s room, laid down on his bed and took the teen’s phone and watch. He also grabbed a fishing bag, according to the affidavit.

Lawrence said he then found Coughlin standing in his living room and ordered him to leave, which he did, but not before offering Lawrence drugs.

Stated Trooper Garces, “Lawrence advised that on his way out, Coughlin offered to sell him drugs.”

When Coughlin left the home he no longer had the teen’s possessions.

State police arrived at the scene to search for Coughlin. With assistance from Lawrence, Coughlin was found inside a car parked outside a Charles Street residence. The vehicle did not belong to Coughlin.

The trooper noted that Coughlin appeared impaired and was unable to communicate. A syringe was found in his pocket.

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