By Guy Page
Another light bail sentence by the presiding judge in Caledonia County has elicited an angry letter from a Vermont state senator to his colleagues.
“Seriously Senators!,” began an email from Sen. Russ Ingalls (R-Essex). “An assault weapon, cocaine and warrants, and is out on $200 bail, and this guy is still a Judge!?”
“This guy” is Vermont Superior Court Judge Justin Jiron, presiding in Caledonia County. The suspect is Christopher Degreenia, 33, of Lyndon, released last week on $200 bail after an alleged flagrant drug and firearms violation.
Jiron was appointed to his judgeship by Gov. Phil Scott in December, 2021. After a hitch in the Army, he entered private practice. He served as a prosecutor beginning in 2003 in the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office and was appointed to serve as a chief deputy state’s attorney in 2016.
Jiron, an Underhill resident, is scheduled to remain in the Caledonia County seat until September 6, when he will be rotated to another county Superior Court seat.
The $200 bail for DeGreenia wasn’t the first controversial catch-and-release of Jiron’s judicial career:
Last month, Jiron found no probable cause for Vermont State Police arrest of a man for burglarizing a St. Johnsbury pizzeria. He issued the decision through a clerk, rather than follow the usual practice of telling the state’s attorney and police in open court. “The fact that he didn’t even taken the bench to address it is pretty egregious,” State’s Attorney Jessica Zaleski reportedly told the Caledonian-Record. “Without an explanation from the judge it’s pretty hard to figure out what exactly is missing.”
Last October, Jiron dropped felony drug trafficking-to-minors charges against the operator of the Best Buds Smoke Shop in St. Johnsbury. The man’s arrest followed a six-month investigation by state authorities. Jiron said the bust lacked probable cause due to lack of witnesses.
A ‘person of interest’ in the December 1, 2022 shooting death of David Peatman, 66 at his home in Eden was released on $300 bail – and then failed to show for two St. Johnsbury court appearances. The suspect, Shawn Rich, already had a history of hiding from the law. Whether Rich has appeared before a Vermont court since December, 2022 is not known.
Jiron’s family’s criminal record also has a few blemishes. Daughter Jasmine Jiron was arrested August 13, 2022 for DUI and resisting arrest in Georgia, VT. His parents Patrick and Barbara pleaded no contest in 2018 to attempting to transport 60 lbs. of marijuana across country. Jiron himself has no record of legal wrong-doing.
Details of the DeGreenia episode were reported in the June 1 Vermont Daily Chronicle. DeGreenia, while prohibited from possessing firearms, was jailed after police found him in St. Johnsbury in a car with a loaded AR-15 propped up on his knee.
Jun 1 at 2:50 AM, St. Johnsbury police went to 1658 Main St. for a report of a vehicle blaring the horn.
They found Dakota McAllister and Christopher Degreenia, 33, of Lyndon. DeGreenia was in the passenger seat of the vehicle, with a loaded AR-15, chambered in .556 and equipped with a scope and 30-round magazine, propped up on his knee.
“When I removed the firearm from the vehicle, I noticed the bolt was closed. I pulled the charging handle back and observed a rifle cartridge in the chamber,” Officer Davis Guyer said.
Degreenia has a curfew to be in Lyndonville, which he was in violation of. Degreenia was arrested for violating his conditions of release and the loaded long gun in a motor vehicle.
While searching Degreenia, incident to arrest, Guyer pulled out a clear round plastic container with a white rock-like substance inside. The firearm and suspected drugs were brought back to the police department with Degreenia. A field test showed the rock-like substance to be consistent with the chemical makeup of Cocaine, and weighed approximately .7 grams.
When the magazine was emptied, it was found to hold 8 more rifle cartridges.
A check of Degreenia’s criminal record showed he was disqualified from possessing a firearm in the State of Vermont due to prior criminal convictions.
Ingalls is incensed about what happened next.
Degreenia was brought to the Vermont Superior Court, Caledonia Unit for arraignment. Judge Justin Jiron found probable cause and Degreenia was lodged into the Northeastern Correctional Complex with $200 bail.
Superior Court judges are appointed for six years. Jiron will next appear before the Legislature’s Judicial Nominating Board in 2027. Vermont is not listed by the National Conference of State Legislatures as a state with a judicial recall process.
Categories: State Government