BURLINGTON — A former Rutland County waitress, who gave birth to twin daughters almost a year ago, will avoid going to federal prison for heroin dealing because a judge believes she is well on the road to turning around her addiction.
The federal sentencing guidelines had suggested Aja Consoli, 34, formerly of Killington, receive a prison term of at least 9 years for conspiring to distribute heroin between June 2015 and October 2016.
But U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss said Friday she believed the single mom faced extenuating circumstances and that a sentence of “time served” was proper in this case.
The judge noted Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Perella and defense lawyer Robert Katims also supported the plan to allow Consoli to continue to care for her twin daughters born last December.
Reiss said Consoli will be heavily supervised by the U.S. Probation Office for three years and she will be required to undergo treatment as directed, including attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings. She said the supervision will be vigilant to ensure she stays straight.
Consoli is currently staying with her mother in Peabody, Massachusetts, Katims said.
“My life has changed significantly,” Consoli told the court. She said she has made connections at NA meetings.
“I don’t want to use again. I acknowledge everything I did. It is not a life I want to go back to,” Consoli said.
Both Katims and Perella told the court they were impressed Consoli had finally understood how to make her life right. Katims said his client was even attending the Vermont Narcotics Anonymous Convention this weekend while in Vermont.
“Her life is her children and her sobriety,” Katims said. He said she is interested in getting a career in the trades, possibly as an electrician.
Consoli was living at a residence on Roaring Brook Road in Killington when operating her drug distribution business, court records show. On Oct. 20, 2016, the Vermont Drug Task Force raided the residence after developing evidence to seek a federal search warrant.
Reiss ordered Consoli to forfeit the $10,480 in drug proceeds that was seized during the raid.
Reiss said she was initially unimpressed by Consoli and her rude behavior when she was arrested three years ago. Perella noted Consoli disrespected the court and prosecutor and was especially rude to the probation officer. Reiss said she had no trouble ordering her jailed at the time.
“You have come a long way. You went to treatment. You earned your freedom,” said Reiss, who was clearly torn by the options during the one-hour hearing.
“This is a tough case. I reluctantly give you time served,” Reiss said.
The judge admitted she was giving extra consideration because Consoli was a new mother. Reiss said there was a big difference when dealers with children continue to sell deadly drugs. She said those dealers make a choice to sell drugs knowing they are putting custody of their children in jeopardy. Consoli did not have any children when dealing.
Reiss noted that a one-year sentence would mean Consoli would lose custody of the children. Her mother, who spends summers at a lakefront property in the Northeast Kingdom, was not an option, the judge was told.
A federal grand jury indicted Consoli shortly after the arrest of two Rutland County brothers three years ago as part of an eight-month federal investigation into heroin distribution in the Rutland County region.
The Vermont Drug Task Force, along with federal authorities on Oct. 19, 2016, arrested Jeffrey P. LaRouche 41, then of Tinmouth and Mark LaRouche, 39, then of Rutland during a traffic stop on Route 4 in Killington State Police said.
Investigators seized about 80 grams of heroin when State Police pulled over Mark LaRouche’s westbound truck with his brother as a passenger, State Police Lt. Paul Favreau said.
Jeff LaRouche admitted he was a heroin user and had been selling the drug for a year, court records show. He said his brother was among the heroin addicts working for his drug business.
Perella reminded Reiss during the hearing that Jeff LaRouche had received a “time served” sentence in June after spending about 17 months in prison. Perella, in court papers last June, noted LaRouche deserved a time served sentence “by his impressive completion of the Federal Drug Court Program.” He was facing a stiff sentence as well, but turned his life around and was placed on two years of supervised release.
“He has proved that he can be a responsible, law abiding and hard-working member of the community and that a sentence of further imprisonment would be counter-productive to his recovery.”
Mark LaRouche had a minor role in the drug distribution conspiracy, court records show. Some of the heroin was laced with fentanyl, the government said.
He received a time-served sentence in March 2018 and was placed on supervised release for three years.
Consoli pleaded guilty on Sept. 10, 2018 to a charge of conspiracy to distribute heroin and was due to be sentenced Dec. 27, 2018. However with the birth of her twins, both sides agreed to delay it for 8 months. The prosecution during the summer asked for a second extension.
As the sentencing hearing ended, the prosecution dismissed a second charge for possession of heroin with intent to distribute on Oct. 20, 2016.