A Lamoille County resident can be released from prison to obtain drug and mental health treatment while awaiting trial on charges of illegally possessing 16 firearms and 400 pounds of ammunition, a federal judge has decided.
As a convicted felon, Christopher M. Mesick, 38, of Jeffersonville was not allowed to have the guns and ammo.
Mesick will be released to attend a four-month treatment plan at two out-of-state facilities, U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Conroy ruled from the bench last week.
Conroy said before Mesick can be released from the Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans, a residential treatment bed must become available at the Farnham Center in Manchester, N.H. She will start with a 28-day drug abuse treatment program there. She was still at the prison on Tuesday.
Once Mesick completes that rehab program, the plan is to enroll in 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, Assistant Public Defender David McColgin said.
After the four months of treatment, Mesick will be allowed to return home to Jeffersonville.
Mesick, who won the Purple Heart while serving in combat in Iraq, wants to be referred to as “she” or “her,” McColgin told the court at the start of the hearing.
McColgin said he thought the country owed it to its military veterans to take care of them when they return from active duty.
He said Mesick served in the military from 1999 to 2009, including a deployment to Iraq in 2005-06, 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, with the final one in May 2006 as the worst. That is when she was awarded the Purple Heart, she said.
McColgin said Mesick suffered a traumatic brain injury.
McColgin acknowledged that 16 guns may appear to be an excessive number of weapons, but they were a combination of military service and weapons inherited.
Mesick is prohibited from possessing firearms because of an aggravated assault conviction more than two years ago. The Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office agreed to a deferred sentence agreement that would have allowed the assault conviction to be cleared from Mesick’s criminal record, authorities said.
Mesick remains on state probation.
During an earlier hearing, Conroy noted Mesick’s aggravated assault conviction for pointing a gun came one month after a 2018 motorcycle chase through several towns in Franklin and Chittenden counties.
Mesick also was charged earlier with aggravated assault case in a serious knifing in Chittenden County. Testimony showed the victim was cut open and his organs were hanging out, but the felony charge was later dismissed, records show.
After Mesick completes both treatment programs and returns home to Jeffersonville, the Veterans Administration has agreed to ensure proper services remain available, with weekly check-ins.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Wendy Fuller said she initially opposed the defense plan that called for only a one-month drug program in New Hampshire. Fuller said she found the additional three-month stop in Massachusetts far more preferable.
Fuller said she understands some of the struggles Mesick faces and the plan might help “get on a better track.”
“We remain concerned about some of the original conduct. It is troubling. It’s scary for the public,” said Fuller.
The 16 firearms, including several high-powered assault rifles, and 400 pounds of ammunition were found Jan. 13 during a court-ordered search at Mesick’s residence, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said. Some firearms had been hidden under floorboards in a bedroom.
Mesick has pleaded not guilty to both felony charges.
Mesick promised to give the treatment plan “100 percent.”
The defense had failed in two earlier attempts this year to win release for Mesick. The second attempt included a six-week program at the Residential Recovery Center at the Veterans Health Administration in White River Junction.
Conroy said he feared for the safety of any probation officer assigned to supervise Mesick, or for the police responding to calls.