Courts & Corrections

Man who settled suit over drug arrest is jailed on new charges

RUTLAND — A Richmond man who recently settled a lawsuit for $100,000 with the city of Burlington over allegations that a former officer lied to make drug charges stick is now behind bars facing new drug charges.

Michael P. Mullen, 26, was arraigned Monday in Rutland Superior Court on felony charges of possessing cocaine with the intent to sell and possessing marijuana, as well as a misdemeanor count of operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license.

Michael Mullen
Michael P. Mullen. He sued the Burlington Police Department over allegations an officer lied, but he now faces charges in Rutland. Photo courtesy of Rutland police
Mullen invoked his right to wait 24 hours before entering a plea. He was ordered jailed for lack of $50,000 bail pending a hearing Tuesday afternoon.

Rutland County State’s Attorney Rose Kennedy had requested Monday that the $50,000 bail be continued while the case remains pending.

Steven Zwicky, Mullen’s court-appointed public defender, had been seeking his client’s release on conditions before asking a judge for additional time to make his bail argument.

Despite recently reported news that Mullen had settled a lawsuit for $100,000, he was appointed a public defender Monday with a $50 copay.

Rutland police said Mullen was arrested in the city’s downtown around 3:50 p.m. Saturday when he was pulled over driving his 2007 Saturn Ion without a front license plate.

Police said Mullen’s driver’s license was suspended and that a search showed he had a felony amount of cocaine. Also, police said, a search of the vehicle revealed a felony amount of marijuana.

No charges were filed against passengers in Mullen’s vehicle at the time of the stop.

The Burlington Free Press reported this month that Mullen would receive $100,000 in a settlement with the city of Burlington and an officer who no longer works for the department over allegations that his rights were violated.

Mullen had been arrested on a felony charge of cocaine possession after a traffic stop in October for having a license plate light out.

Christopher Lopez
Former Burlington Police Officer Christopher Lopez. Photo courtesy of Burlington police
Body camera footage contradicted Burlington Police Officer Christopher Lopez’s sworn written statement that he smelled marijuana coming from Mullen’s car, justifying searches of Mullen and the vehicle.

Mullen spent four months in jail before that case was thrown out. Lopez has since resigned from the Burlington Police Department, and the Vermont attorney general’s office initiated a criminal review of the officer’s actions.

John Treadwell, head of the attorney general’s criminal division, could not immediately be reached Monday for comment on the status of that probe.

Mullen filed his lawsuit in May.

In the Rutland case, police said after the traffic stop Saturday a later search of Mullen turned up several plastic baggies of crack cocaine and powdered cocaine totaling about 88 grams, or a little more than 3 ounces.

In the vehicle, police said, they also found about 2 ounces of marijuana.

Rutland City Police Patrol Commander Matthew Prouty said Monday afternoon that the department does not currently use body cameras.

He said the department’s cruisers are equipped with dash cameras. He said the department wouldn’t release any dash cam video of Saturday’s arrest to the public while the case is pending.

If convicted of the most recent charges, Mullen faces up to 15 years in prison.

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Alan J. Keays

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  • Gary Murdock

    Its good that he has a public defender with a $50 copay, this leaves the $100k available to be re-invested into his drug dealing business. With any luck a liberal judge will rule pulling someone over for a missing license plate cruel and unusual punishment…and another $100k in the bank. Then he’ll have enough cash to freshen up those hideous tattoo’s. Out there, somewhere outside of Vermont there is a community that will benefit from hiring Christopher Lopez.

  • Dennis Works

    Rich Lachapelle: You seem to be having a problem with the Constitution and its protection of our right to be free from unlawful searches and seizures. The Supreme Court has made many rulings in this area and has consistently ruled that police “hunches” and “intuition” cannot play any role in detaining and searching a person, as they do not present “probable cause” of criminal activity. The officer in the first case, Burlington Police Officer Christopher Lopez lied in a sworn statement that he smelled marijuana coming from Mullen’s car, justifying searches of Mullen and the vehicle. Are you proposing that law enforcement be allowed to lie under oath in order to effectuate an arrest, and that the “ends justify the means”. I certainly hope that’s not the case. Supporting the Constitution is not a “liberal” undertaking – it is a patriotic one.

  • JohnGreenberg

    As Dennis Works pointed out above, your quarrel is with the founding fathers.

    By granting citizens, including criminals various rights — e.g. the right not to incriminate oneself, protection against unreasonable search and seizure, etc. — the founders of this country chose to allow some criminals to walk free rather than to incarcerate anyone whose guilt could not be proven.