U.S. Attorney: New Lewis charges result of independent evaluation

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Chittenden County's top prosecutor is speaking out after the feds filed new charges in the attempted murder case she dropped against a New York woman.

U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan

Last week State's Attorney Sarah George dropped charges against Veronica Lewis, the woman who in 2015 allegedly walked out of mental health treatment program and shot her firearms instructor. Multiple mental health experts found Lewis insane at the time and George said the state says they couldn't prove she was sane, so she belonged in a psychiatric hospital and not a prison.

Federal authorities Wednesday charged Lewis with two gun charges in connection with that shooting. U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan says the federal charges are not a criticism of the state's decision to drop the attempted murder charge. "All this is an independent evaluation of whether charges were appropriate under federal law, and the bringing of federal charges after making that evaluation. But it is not a critique of the state's attorney, who I respect and respect her office," Nolan said.

In a statement Thursday morning, George said she was not aware the federal charges were coming. "As prosecutors, we all want to ensure that our community is safe, and it is imperative that we not continue to use our criminal justice system, including jails, simply because we find limitations in our mental health system that are not being addressed," she said.

If Lewis is convicted on those federal gun charges she could face up to 20-years in prison.