New Charges for Man Awarded $100K in Vermont Police Misconduct Case

Michael Mullen was arrested on new drug charges, just a few months after other allegations against him were dismissed

The Vermont man awarded a six-figure settlement after high-profile allegations of police misconduct is facing new criminal charges in an unrelated case.

Michael Mullen, 26, of Richmond, appeared in court Tuesday in Rutland to face marijuana and cocaine possession charges.

The Rutland Police Department said a traffic stop July 15 for a missing license plate led to a drug dog sniffing out evidence that led to Mullen’s arrest for pot, cocaine, and crack cocaine possession.

Rutland officers said the canine alerted them to $599 in currency, and subsequent searches resulted in the discovery of drug evidence in baggies.

Defense attorney Jim Gratton entered pleas of not guilty on Mullen’s behalf to felony charges of marijuana and cocaine possession, and a misdemeanor charge of operating a vehicle with a suspended license.

It was recently announced that Mullen was awarded $100,000 to settle a claim of improper behavior by a police officer in Burlington in a different drug case.

In February, body camera footage from former Burlington Police Department officer Christopher Lopez revealed Lopez telling a colleague during an October 2016 traffic stop that he did not smell marijuana in Mullen's car.

Lopez later claimed in an affidavit that he did smell pot, apparently trying to strengthen his case into drugs that other investigators later said really were in the vehicle.

Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George blasted Lopez’s claim as a lie, which she said made the cop an unreliable witness at trial.

George said in February she was forced to toss the case against Mullen and other drug suspects whom Lopez investigated.

The officer quit the force amid intense scrutiny.

Mullen settled with the city of Burlington for $100,000, attorney David Bond said earlier this month, after a lawsuit was filed alleging Lopez violated Mullen’s rights.

Mullen spent several months in jail before the body camera footage revealed conduct that led to the dismissal of charges.

A separate investigation was launched in the office of the Vermont Attorney General into whether Lopez’s actions were criminal. However, there have been no recent updates to the media about the status of that investigation.

“He just wasted a really great opportunity,” Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George said Tuesday, adding she wishes Mullen would've taken that big payout and the dismissal of charges in her county as a lucky wake-up call to get his life moving in a more positive direction.

“He was in a really good place to go down a different route, and he didn't do that,” George continued. “And I think it's insulting. It's insulting to the criminal justice system and insulting to all Vermonters.”

At his arraignment Tuesday on the new charges in Rutland County, prosecutor Steven Zwicky informed the judge of a lengthy criminal record for Mullen, which Zwicky said included past drug offenses and past situations that made Mullen a potential risk to not appear for future court dates.

Weighing that argument, and the defense’s view that Mullen is unlikely to skip out on court, Judge Cortland Corsones said Mullen could be released on a 24-7 curfew, if he posts $25,000 bail.

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