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Lewis sentenced in state court for 2015 shooting; eligible for release by 2027

Updated: Jun. 1, 2021 at 4:58 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A Vermont woman accused of turning a gun and firing three shots at her shooting safety instructor in 2015 was sentenced in state court Tuesday to 10 years with time served, making her eligible for release in six years.

The sentence did not please Lewis’ victim Darryl Montague, who continues to suffer from debilitating medical problems connected to the shooting. “Frustrated would be the best descriptive word,” Montague said.

Under a plea deal with state and federal prosecutors, Lewis will be eligible to be released in 2027. Montague says that’s not long enough. “I’m looking for equal justice -- equal to the crimes that were committed,” he said.

Montague recounted how Lewis turned the gun on him while he was teaching a firearms safety course, speaking for nearly an hour about the pain and impact he has suffered since. He points to countless surgeries and health issues he still deals with. “My ability to be productive in the world was taken away by Veronica,” Montague said.

When it was Lewis’ turn to address the court, she apologized for the shooting. “I would like to express how deeply sorry I am for hurting Mr. Montague and the pain I caused him and his family,” she said.

But Montague remains skeptical. “You can tell when somebody is truly sincere if you know how to watch people, and there was no emotion, there was no regret,” he said.

Jessica Brown, Lewis’ public defender, stands by the plea agreement, says it allows Lewis to receive help for mental health problems she faced when the shooting took place. “I think this is the right outcome, because the ultimate goal should be and will be to make sure that Veronica Lewis’ mental health is treated,” Brown said. “Far too many mentally ill people do not get the level of mental health treatment that they need until they commit a horrific crime against someone.”

As for what’s next, Darryl Montague points to his own struggles with mental and physical health because of the shooting and says he’s glad to finally have the long-running case behind him.

The state sentence will be concurrent with a six-year federal sentence on weapons charges that was delivered Friday.

STATE AND FEDERAL SENTENCES CLOSE SIX-YEAR LEGAL BATTLE OVER INSANITY DEFENSE

Tuesday’s sentence in state court -- and the federal sentence delivered Friday -- closes a six-year legal battle over Veronica Lewis’ mental health and how the state should deal with similar cases.

Lewis’ attempted murder case was tossed out by the Chittenden County State’s Attorney about two years ago. That decision came after two mental health experts determined Lewis suffered from a major mental illness and could not appreciate the wrongfulness of her crime. That idea is more commonly known as legal insanity.

Darren Perron spoke with reporter Dom Amato, who has been covering the case, about what Tuesday’s sentencing signifies.

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