The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Vermont has dismissed a two-count indictment against a Jeffersonville resident, who was found with 16 firearms, including several high-powered assault rifles in January 2020.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives initially arrested Christopher M. Mesick, 39, on charges of being both a convicted felon and a drug user who was found in illegal possession of firearms, records show.
The ATF also found 400 pounds of ammunition and a large bag of marijuana at the Mesick home, the ATF said.
The defendant, who won a Purple Heart while serving as a gunner during combat in Iraq with the U.S. Army, has subsequently transitioned and changed her name to Tovi Rose Mesick in September 2020.
Mesick also petitioned federal court in December 2020 to change the name of the criminal case to reflect her new name.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael P. Drescher, who took over the case recently, said during a hearing in U.S. District Court on Monday that the prosecution thought it could have trouble showing Mesick had knowledge of both crimes due to circumstances.
Mesick, who had denied both felony charges, was due for a jury trial this fall. Senior Judge William K. Sessions III denied a defense request in June for suppression of both evidence during the search and for statements Mesick made to investigators.
Some of the firearms were found under floorboards in a bedroom in the two-story home at 127 Main Street near the town elementary school. The school was alerted ahead as the ATF and state police conducted a court-ordered search on Jan. 13, 2020. In the end, seven pistols, five rifles and four shotguns were seized, the ATF said.
Mesick was on state probation for aggravated assault with a firearm by allegedly pointing it at a victim in Burlington in September 2017, records show. It came one month after a gross operation of a motorcycle case for a chase through several towns in Franklin and Chittenden counties.
Mesick also has a previous arrest for aggravated assault dropped by the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Chittenden County prosecutors had Mesick plead guilty to the gun assault, but offered a deferred sentence that allowed for the conviction to be eliminated by staying out of trouble for 5 years.
Drescher said the government was told that Mesick believed that possession of firearms was legal because the aggravated assault with a firearm conviction would be wiped off the defendant’s criminal record.
Assistant federal defender David McColgin said in court papers his client has maintained the state defense lawyer in the gun case, Jasdeep Pannu, said it was acceptable to possess firearms because the record would be eliminated.
Drescher said the defense also maintained Mesick thought possession of marijuana was legal because Vermont had relaxed its drug law. Drescher said it was still illegal under federal law, but the conflict could lead to confusion by the jury.
He said those issues led to the decision not to pursue the two felony charges at this time. Drescher noted Mesick will remain on state probation until September 2022.
The federal counts were dismissed without prejudice, meaning charges can be refiled if new evidence comes to light.
McColgin has said Mesick served in the military from 1999 to 2009, including a deployment to Iraq from 2005-2006 and won multiple service-related awards. Mesick had more than 150 missions as a gunner with the Army National Guard, McColgin said.
Mesick said she got blown up three times. After the third, she was awarded the Purple Heart, Mesick said.
McColgin said Mesick suffered a traumatic brain injury.
After Mesick’s arrest by ATF in January 2020, then-Magistrate Judge John M. Conroy ordered the defendant held as a danger to the community.
During the detention hearing in January 2020, assistant U.S. attorney Wendy Fuller noted Mesick said, “I’m going to shoot you,” when pointing a gun at another person in the Burlington assault case two years earlier. She said when police responded, Mesick resisted arrest.
McColgin, about six months after the federal arrest, rolled out a more comprehensive drug and mental health release plan that Conroy accepted.
The plan started with a 28-day drug abuse treatment program at the Farnham Center in Manchester, N.H. The second stop was a three-month program known as Domiciliary at the Bedford, Mass., Veterans Administration Medical Center. It is designed to address alcohol and post-traumatic stress disorder, McColgin said.
After the four months of treatment, Mesick would be allowed to return home to Jeffersonville and the Veterans Administration would help with medical, mental health and addiction treatment, McColgin explained.
Vermont State Police responded to Mesick’s residence to conduct a welfare check on Jan. 5, 2020, ATF Special Agent Tam Vieth said in a court affidavit. He said police found Mesick unsteady on her feet, with slurring speech and making threats toward state troopers,
During the interaction with Mesick, one state trooper noticed four rifles in the living room and three were AR-15 style rifles with bayonets, Vieth said. One had a 50-round drum magazine inserted, the agent wrote.
The troopers subsequently applied for a state search warrant and investigators found the 16 firearms along with several cases of ammunition and a few ounces of marijuana in plain view, Vieth said.
During a police interview Mesick acknowledged a previous felony conviction for aggravated assault, but because she received a deferred sentence on the conviction, Mesick thought she was allowed to possess firearms, Vieth wrote at the time.