Hinesburg man back in jail on new drug charges

By MIKE DONOGHUE

A former Hinesburg resident, arrested multiple times due to his attraction to clandestine methamphetamine labs, is back behind bars on new federal charges.

Jacob A. Berino, 25, now of South Burlington, completed a two-and-a-half-year federal prison sentence this month and was free for one week when he resumed using drugs, according to officials and court records.

Magistrate Judge John M. Conroy ordered Berino jailed last Friday afternoon for violating the terms of his supervised release. The jailing came two days after Berino admitted he used methamphetamine, U.S. Probation Officer Parish J. Gibson wrote in court papers.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Perella asked that Berino be detained, based on his dismal track record.

Conroy ruled Berino will be held until a court hearing on whether he violated the terms of his three-year federal supervised release.

Berino’s ongoing drug problems literally exploded in Hinesburg Oct. 23, 2012, when a meth lab detonated on Texas Hill. Berino, then 19, was severely burned, including his face and eyes, and taken to the hospital, Hinesburg Police Officer Brian Fox reported.

The lab was behind a family home in a tree line, police said.

The investigation also showed that the former Champlain Valley Union High School student had caused a fire at his grandmother’s home nearby while trying to manufacture methamphetamine in May 2012 and that Burlington Police had used an informant that summer to make a meth buy from Berino, court records show.

About a week later, as Berino was discharged from the hospital, the Drug Enforcement Administration arrested him on a federal charge of manufacturing methamphetamine. He was sent to Valley Vista, a residential drug program in Bradford, but was ejected in December 2012 for nonparticipation, court records show.

Berino has been charged with eight crimes since December 2012, most of them tied to what his mother, UVM Professor Jean Harvey, said at the time was a “horrible drug problem,” court records show.

Berino eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced by Judge Christina Reiss to three years and one day in prison, followed by four years of supervised release.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons released Berino on Feb. 9, 2016. Three days later, U.S. Probation Officers visited Berino at the Days Inn on Shelburne Road in Shelburne and learned he had used and manufactured meth the night before, court records show.

Officer Fox, who had begun working for Shelburne police, interviewed Berino at the police station and reported that he admitted making meth at the hotel.

Berino said his brother had driven him around the previous night to acquire some of the ingredients used in the manufacturing process, records show. One of the ingredients came from Kinney Drugs and DEA Agent Adam Chetwynd said a review of surveillance video showed Berino making the purchase. Other items came from Walmart and video showed Berino making those purchases, Chetwynd said in court papers.

Perella, in his November 2016 sentencing memo, said Berino had put the safety of the probation officers, Shelburne police and hotel customers in jeopardy.

Perella said the government was willing to accept a two-year prison term for the second meth lab because Berino admitted his guilt quickly. However, Perella said the violation of Berino’s supervised release should require a consecutive sentence.

Judge Reiss agreed. She imposed the two-year term for the meth lab, but also added 12 months for violating his earlier supervised release. The judge said she would allow half of the second penalty to be consecutive so it netted a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence, records show. Reiss also imposed three years of supervised release, which began this month.

“The crux of the problem here, however, is that the defendant continues to be a risk to himself and the community,” Perella wrote. “This risk significantly outweighs all the valid mitigators present here, including that this was an addiction-driven offense and the defendant suffers from mental health issues.”

Defense lawyer Robert Katims asked for one year and one day followed by a treatment program, noting that prison would not help him, but rehabilitation is needed.

Hinesburg Police Chief Frank Koss, after the 2012 meth lab explosion on Texas Hill, warned the community that clandestine labs are portable and can be set up anywhere. He said the labs can be extremely toxic to the environment and cause permanent and costly damage.

Koss said the potential financial costs to the town of Hinesburg were limited because the DEA picked up much of the cleanup costs.

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