ST. JOHNSBURY — A prosecutor seeking bail to hold a local man accused of striking his girlfriend with the stock of a muzzleloader said in Caledonia Superior Court Thursday that the bloody evidence of the assault was a good reason to impose bail.
Brian Brewster, 47, St. Johnsbury, appeared shirtless for his arraignment on felony charges of aggravated domestic assault. He joined the arraignment via online video from a room inside the Northeast Regional Correctional Facility. Accused of striking his girlfriend in the head with a muzzleloader rifle on Wednesday, Brewster pleaded not guilty.
Caledonia County State’s Attorney Jessica Zaleski asked the court to impose bail of $10,000 on Brewster due to the significance of the alleged assault and fear for the victim’s safety. She referenced pictures that police took of the injuries reportedly done to the victim.
“This was an extremely violent offense,” she said. “Neither the court nor defense counsel have seen the photos from [the victim’s] injuries (but) rest assured it was a violent and bloody incident last night.”
St. Johnsbury Police were alerted to the incident about 5:20 p.m. on Wednesday. Sgt. Aaron Rivard noted in his affidavit that he located the 33-year-old victim outside an Mt. Pleasant Street residence with a man named William Bunnell, 45.
“I observed right away that [the victim] had blood on her neck, chest and the right side of her face,” noted Sgt. Rivard.
He reported she also had a bruised and swollen eye and the blood was from a cut above her right ear.
As noted in the police report, Bunnell was forthcoming with information identifying Brewster as the one responsible for the injuries and that Brewster used a muzzleloader to strike the woman, but the alleged victim was initially hesitant to out Brewster as the person responsible.
“He’s so close to getting off conditions, please don’t get him into trouble,” the victim reportedly said to Sgt. Rivard. She went on to say that in six days he would be “getting out of trouble” from a previous conviction.
The officer asked if she would be willing to testify to the assault and she said no.
Through continued conversation with the alleged victim, Sgt. Rivard reported that she did say it was Brewster who struck her.
“He punched me last night and he busted me with a [expletive] whatever it was earlier,” she reportedly told the officer.
Despite her statement, she continued to ask the police to not go after Brewster.
CALEX personnel who arrived to evaluate the injuries urged the woman to go to the hospital but she refused, according to the police report.
Police were initially unable to locate Brewster but finally found him at his Maple Street residence at 10:40 p.m. on Wednesday. Officer Robert Gerrish took him into custody.
During the arraignment on Thursday afternoon, it was discussed that Brewster was being held in jail for a parole violation. He is scheduled for a parole hearing on July 22.
Zaleski’s request for bail and additional conditions of release were made in the event that the parole hearing determines Brewster can go free at the hearing next week.
Defense attorney Sam Swope argued against the bail, saying state law notes that bail is to be applied when the likelihood of a defendant fleeing the area is high. He said Brewster is not a flight risk. Swope said Brewster has ties to the area, having lived in Vermont for most of his life, he has a job, and he’s never failed to make a court date.
Zaleski said her bail request was based on protection against further harm.
Judge Michael Harris agreed that the severity of the allegations required protections for the alleged victim.
“The nature and degree of force used in the underlying incident and the extent of some of the injuries, having the firearm - whether or not it was going to be used - or even using it like a bludgeon or club - that is significant, particularly for someone who has a history of past assaultive crimes,” the judge said.
He ruled that a $5,000 unsecured appearance bond would be required. This means that if Brewster doesn’t show up for court, he would need to pay $5,000 or go to jail. Additional conditions placed on him include the requirement that he can’t leave jail unless he can stay with a responsible adult approved by the court. He will be bound by a curfew once out of jail, and he must stay away from the alleged victim, Bunnel, and a third witness in the case, Desiree Hawkins, 37.