Kinney awaits sentencing

Former Colchester detective pleads guilty federal charges


By Jason Starr
The Colchester Sun

In federal court in Burlington on Monday, prosecutor William Darrow read a detailed account of how former Colchester Police Detective Tyler Kinney took guns and drugs from the evidence locker he oversaw to feed his drug habit and that of a Burlington friend.

“Is that what happened,” Judge William Sessions asked Kinney after the narrative was complete.

“Yes, your honor,” Kinney said.

Sessions accepted Kinney’s guilty plea on three counts of stealing police property, providing a gun to a “user of a controlled substance” and distributing heroin. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 5. Kinney remains on release, and Sessions agreed to have his GPS tracking device removed until sentencing. He has completed a stint at a residential treatment center.

The felonies come with potential prison time of up to 20 years and fines of up to $5 million. Sessions said he will consider Kinney’s conduct since his November arrest when determining a sentence.

“Acceptance of responsibility is a very important sentencing factor for me,” he said. “When people fully accept responsibility for their criminal conduct and do something about it, they pose less of a risk of re-offending.”

Kinney’s offenses were unearthed last fall by Burlington police officers when they conducted a drug raid on a Burlington home. According to prosecutors, the home’s resident told police that a gun they found was given to him by Kinney. Federal investigators later used the man’s cell phone to initiate a text conversation with Kinney to his police department cell phone. The text conversation implicated Kinney and led investigators to interview him.

Kinney reportedly told investigators he took drugs from the police department’s evidence locker that were no longer needed for prosecutions and were going to be thrown out. Prosecutors said he also took heroin, ecstasy and cocaine that were used to train Colchester’s police dog, as well as prescription drugs from the police department’s voluntary pill drop-off box. Prosecutors said they found drugs in Kinney’s police car and desk at Colchester Police headquarters.

Kinney had been the steward of the department’s evidence locker since 2012. The FBI and Vermont State Police audited the locker and, while claiming their investigation was incomplete because of faulty record-keeping under Kinney’s tenure, found that about $12,000 in cash, two guns and hundreds of bags of heroin were unaccounted for. Other instances of open pill bottles and torn heroin bags were noted.

The police department has since undertaken an overhaul of its evidence-handling process. A bar-code system is being implemented so that each piece of evidence can be tracked, Police Chief Jennifer Morrison said. Evidence will be scanned when it moves spots within the locker and when it is transported to a courthouse or laboratory. One of the department’s detectives has spent months since the investigation bar-coding each piece of evidence in the department’s possession.

“We will know exactly what’s under our roof,” Morrison said in an April interview.

The work has left the department short-handed when responding to incidents requiring investigations.

“We are in an unusual situation,” Morrison said. “We’ve had to put a lot of resources into bar-coding. We are shifting people around.”

The bar-coding effort will be complete at the end of May, she said.