27 Apr Former Lawman’s Prescription Drug Addiction Leads to Prison Time
A former Vermont lawman who became so addicted to prescription drugs that he used underlings to illegally acquire them was sentenced Wednesday to six months in prison, reports the Associated Press.
His police career in shambles, Vergennes Police Chief Michael Lowe called his behavior "inexcusable" but asked to be spared prison time, saying he was successfully rehabilitating himself from his addiction to prescription painkillers. "Drug addiction is a bear," he told the judge.
But Vermont District Court Judge Cortland Corsones said a message of deterrence had to be sent, ordering Lowe to serve a 1 1/2-to-3-year prison term, all but six months of it suspended. He will likely serve the time out of state, since he can’t be incarcerated with people he prosecuted.
Lowe, 51, pleaded guilty in January to driving under the influence of drugs, felony prescription fraud and neglect of duty, capping an abrupt fall from grace that began June 7, when he had a fender-bender with a parked car while driving an unmarked cruiser.
Officers who responded to the scene found him glassy-eyed and slurring his speech, and he failed field sobriety tests.
The accident laid bare a private struggle that began with a neck injury incurred while weightlifting and led to three operations and a painkiller addiction.
Authorities alleged that Lowe got one officer to obtain Adderall prescriptions for him, got another to give him oxycodone pills that were for the officer’s wife and took a seized pistol from evidence that he gave it to a third officer in exchange for vitamin supplements. The officers were never charged.
In court Wednesday, Lowe’s lawyer and a nurse specializing in psychiatry painted a picture of a law-abiding policeman whose addiction and previously undiagnosed bipolar disorder led to crimes he never would have committed otherwise.
Lowe, a 27-year law enforcement veteran with no criminal record, has since completed substance-abuse rehabilitation and continues to undergo psychotherapy, defense attorney Richard Goldsborough said.
Brush-cut and barrel-chested, wearing a dark suit, shirt and tie, Lowe teared up listening to the nurse testify about his love for police work.
His voice cracked as he pleaded for mercy, and he apologized to the police officers he dragged into his deceits. He said the fender-bender actually saved his life.
"My life was out of control. How I functioned at the end there, I don’t quite know," said Lowe, whose daughter, siblings and mother sat in the courtroom gallery behind him.
He said he can’t believe the depths to which he sank to get drugs. "It’s inexcusable. With that being said, I have to use the tools that have been given to me over the course of this year to turn this around," Lowe said.
The judge said Lowe’s use of his position to get others to help feed his addiction had to be answered with prison time. The state’s prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Robert Menzel, asked for a sentence of between 18 months and four years in prison.
Outside court, Lowe declined to comment.
"Mike’s relieved that it’s over," Goldsborough said. "We’re disappointed that it was six months of incarceration but that was within the judge’s discretion."
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