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Case Number: 2:19-cr-00092-cr
Judge: Christina Reiss
Court: United States District Court for the District of Vermont ( County)
Plaintiff's Attorney: United States District Attorney’s Office
Description: Burlington, Vermont criminal defense lawyer represented Defendant, Vernoica Lewis, 37, of Worchester, Vermont, was charged with Interference with Commerce by Robbery and Possession of a Stolen Firearm.
On June 29, 2015, Lewis intentionally fired three rounds from a revolver at D.M. during a firearms lesson at a business in Westford, Vermont. After shooting D.M. in the face and abdomen, Lewis left the business with the revolver. Later in the day, Lewis was apprehended outside her residence in Worchester, Vermont while still in possession of the stolen firearm. The investigation by Vermont State Police revealed that Lewis had first received instruction from D.M. three days prior to the shooting. During that first training session, Lewis asked multiple times about when she would be able to shoot a handgun, and whether .22 caliber ammunition could kill someone. A search of Lewis’s bedroom resulted in the seizure of targets from the June 26, 2015 training session, handwritten questions about embalming and body removal, a scrapbook entitled D.E.A.T.H., and a computer. A search of the computer’s browsing history revealed Lewis had visited websites regarding crime-scene cleanup, crime statistics, prison sentences, poison ingredients, jails and prisons in Vermont, and “what to do after you’re arrested.” Investigators also learned that Lewis had visited a funeral home in Burlington on June 23 and 24, 2015, where she insisted on seeing an embalming, asked questions about facial reconstructions, and stated “I have some ideas about death and I need to explore them.”
At the request of the government, a forensic psychological examination was conducted while Lewis was in federal custody. That examination included a detailed review of the investigative materials, hundreds of pages of Lewis’s mental health records, and 12 hours of interviews of Lewis over the course of multiple days. A number of psychological tests were administered to Lewis, and collateral phone interviews were conducted. After this thorough investigation, the forensic psychologist determined that, although Lewis was suffering from schizoaffective disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder at the time of the shooting, Lewis was able to appreciate the wrongfulness of her criminal conduct, and was therefore sane at the time she shot D.M.
At the sentencing hearing today, Judge Reiss reviewed in detail the evidence surrounding Lewis’s mental health at the time of the shooting, including the lack of concern from trained mental health providers with whom Lewis interacted in the weeks before the shooting. Judge Reiss also noted that lay people with whom Lewis interacted in the days before and immediately after the shooting also failed to note any indicators of a mental health crisis. Judge Reiss concluded that Lewis acted with clear intent, and Lewis’s actions in concealing her criminal conduct supported a finding that Lewis was aware of the wrongfulness of her actions.
Acting United States Attorney Jonathan A. Ophardt commended the investigative efforts of both the Vermont State Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. “Today’s sentencing holds Veronica Lewis accountable for the intentional harm she inflicted on D.M., with full knowledge of the wrongfulness of her actions. Without doubt, Veronica Lewis suffers from mental health disorders stemming in part from surviving significant trauma and violence. The resolution of this case involved a balancing of these mitigating factors with the horrific and calculated criminal conduct she undertook in Vermont, which resulted in significant harm to a fellow human being. The United States Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners will continue to prioritize violent crime and advocate for the rights of victims of violence. I am especially thankful for the assistance of the Vermont Attorney General in obtaining a coordinated resolution of this matter that provides assurances for long-term supervision of Veronica Lewis, a result not obtainable under federal law.”
Lewis is represented by Assistant Federal Defender David McColgin. Acting U.S. Attorney Ophardt prosecuted the matter for the government.
18:1951(a).F INTERFERENCE WITH COMMERCE BY THREAT OR VIOLENCE - unlawfully took and obtained a firearm and ammunition from another person against his will by means of actual force and violence
18:922(j).F RECEIVE STOLEN FIREARMS - possession of a stolen firearm
Outcome: Judge Reiss accepted the agreement of the parties that Lewis be sentenced to a term of 6 years of incarceration, with no credit for the approximately four years Lewis served in state custody prior to her federal arrest. Lewis will also serve 3 years of supervised release, the maximum available term of post-incarcerative supervision. The parties agreed to determine restitution at a subsequent hearing later in the summer. Lewis also faces sentencing in Vermont’s courts for a charge of Attempted Second Degree Murder.