A South Burlington man has pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of illegal possession of 18 firearms while being an unlawful user and addicted to controlled substances, federal court records show.
Bryan Wright, 51, was jailed for five days following his arrest last week, but was eventually released Monday on strict conditions following a detention hearing in U.S. District Court in Burlington.
There also was a dispute whether Wright could get a lawyer assigned at taxpayer expense when he had three trust funds apparently with some significant balances.
South Burlington Police, assisted by the Vermont Drug Task Force, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found the firearms when they raided Wright’s apartment at 225 Airport Parkway on Feb. 11, court records show.
Also seized were suspected drugs, including more than 30 grams of possible fentanyl, more than 785 grams of marijuana, nine Oxycodone pills, two Diazepam, and also some possible crack cocaine and cocaine, court records show. There also was drug paraphernalia impounded.
Investigators also confiscated a bullet proof vest bearing an FBI patch, court records show. The guns included an AR-style rifle and four 12-gauge shotguns and assorted ammunition.
The joint investigation continued over several weeks and eventually a federal grand jury returned a secret indictment March 14. Authorities arrested Wright on April 3 when he showed up for a state court hearing. He admitted to using cocaine or crack cocaine about 3 or 4 times a week, court records show.
South Burlington Detective Sean Pope had applied for the February search warrant seeking evidence of the sale of heroin, the sale of cocaine and use of firearms while trafficking drugs, federal court records show.
Pope, assisted by Sgt. Matthew Plunkett, reported city police had received multiple complaints about a large number of brief stops by people going in and out of Wright’s apartment on Airport Parkway. Police also received reports of numerous burglaries at the residence with multiple firearms being stolen, Pope said in a court affidavit.
Pope, working with another South Burlington detective assigned to the Vermont Drug Task Force, helped set up the purchase of heroin and crack cocaine by using a confidential informant on Feb. 1, court records show.
The informant reported that while in Wright’s apartment, multiple people came in and out to buy drugs from him, Pope wrote.
Wright was the victim of two burglaries last July, police said. During the first break-in July 11, 2018, a pair of .22-caliber handguns were reported stolen, Pope said. While investigating that burglary, Plunkett was accidentally shown a video of Wright snorting something off the top of a dresser, Pope said.
During a July 17, 2018, break-in, Wright said he came home to find three people in his driveway, police said. The trio fled the driveway, headed north on Airport Parkway and, in the process of the getaway, a safe stolen from the residence fell out of the back of the truck into the middle of the road, Pope said.
Wright said the safe was loaded with various firearms and ammunition, the affidavit said.
Police said they needed to take extra safety precautions for the raid because Wright had two surveillance cameras in his apartment, Pope wrote.
During the detention hearing on Monday, the government agreed to withdraw its request to jail Wright after the Pre-Trial Services Office said there were conditions that would assure his appearance at future court hearings.
Federal Magistrate Judge John M. Conroy agreed to let Wright live at 77 Bear Trap Road in Milton. That is where much of his personal property is being held and under the control of landlord Kirk Little, court records show.
Conroy, after looking at some trust fund records, did rule that Wright would have to secure his own defense lawyer because of “significant accounts” he had in his name.
Burlington lawyer Mark D. Oettinger, who was sitting in Monday, said Wright faced substantial tax and withdrawal fees if he tried to take funds from to two Edward Jones accounts before he was 59½ years-old. The third he could access. The accounts were established for Wright and his three siblings when their parents died, Oettinger said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Spencer J. Willig said he was concerned that if Wright was released he be ordered to avoid narcotics and firearms.
Conroy said besides the ban on firearms, he also was restricting access to alcohol and drugs, including marijuana. Wright also was told he would be subject to drug testing.
Conroy also ordered him to undergo drug screening on Tuesday morning. He ordered all pre-trial motions by July 2.