Vermont Police Officer Released to Rehab After Allegedly Swiping Drug Evidence

Colchester Police Detective Cpl. Tyler Kinney was fitted with a GPS device before going to rehab

Tyler Kinney, a veteran officer with the police department in Colchester, Vermont, was released from jail to a residential drug treatment program Monday.

The release comes shortly after Kinney was accused of stealing heroin, other drugs and a gun from the evidence storage lockers at the police department. Kinney has yet to answer to the charges formally with a plea in federal court.

Kinney declined to answer several questions from New England Cable News as he departed the federal building Monday with relatives for the Serenity House, a drug treatment program in Vermont's Rutland County. Kinney's defense attorney, John Pacht, did speak to reporters.

"Hopefully, he'll be engaged [in the rigors of treatment]," Pacht said. "That's really proven by the treatment itself, not words you say before you get into treatment. He's very focused on the need, and he seems to have the motivation required to engage in it."

Court paperwork filed last week, in advance of Kinney's initial appearance in federal court last Thursday, showed the detective revealed to a federal investigator he had been an opiate addict for about a year. Kinney was in charge of the evidence room for the Colchester Police Department, which is now the subject of an exhaustive audit of its secure lock-up areas, and its policies, Chief Jennifer Morrison said last week.

Also last week, Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan said his office is doing a thorough review of cases Detective Corporal Kinney would have handled that got advanced for prosecution. Donovan said he expects some criminal charges against suspects would have to be tossed, because of concerns over evidence handling.

Kinney's release to rehab Monday was briefly delayed, after the U.S. Attorney's office raised new concerns over threats the officer allegedly made in the past to Peter Burnett. Burnett was identified in court paperwork as a friend of Kinney's who allegedly would use heroin with the detective, and to whom Kinney allegedly gave a stolen gun to use for protection. On his client’s behalf, Pacht denied there were any threats made to Burnett.

U.S. District Court Judge John Conroy permitted Kinney to be released from jail to rehab, provided he wears a GPS monitoring device. The defense and prosecution agreed to the new GPS condition of release.

Jimmy Vezina of Burlington, Vermont told NECN he is now clean and on a good path after he battled drugs, including heroin, for most of his life. "I was shooting up at 13-years-old in this town, and didn't stop until I was 35," Vezina said.

Vezina expressed his opinion that there is no excuse for the police officer's alleged actions, but called the case proof of how far-reaching drug use is.

"It hits anybody," Vezina said. "Anybody can be grabbed by the demon, man."

Kinney remains on unpaid leave from the Colchester Police Department, Chief Morrison said Monday afternoon.

The federal charges against Kinney could bring him 10 years in prison, if he is convicted.

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