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Judge lightened sentence for ex-lawyer/meth dealer

New Hampshire Union Leader

January 17. 2018 9:31AM
Paul J. Bennett 

MANCHESTER — Recently arrested meth dealer Paul Bennett got back on the streets after convincing a judge to lighten a two-month jail sentence, release him from Valley Street jail and allow him to enter a residential treatment program, according to records reviewed Wednesday in Hillsborough County Superior Court.

Bennett, a former criminal defense lawyer, was arrested last week and charged with two counts of sale of methamphetamine. Because of his recent convictions, he was returned to Valley Street jail and is under $250,000 cash bail.

“I think they trusted him and give him the opportunity to do everything he should have done,” said David Dionne, corrections superintendent in Hillsborough County. “He relapsed, and he is where he is now.”

Bennett ran a drug house on Linden Street where methamphetamine was frequently bought and sold until police raided the house in July.

He pleaded guilty to three felony drug charges Oct. 31, and Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson sentenced Bennett to the county jail and recommended he be enrolled in the jail’s Substance Abuse Treatment Community for Offenders (SATCO) program.

In essence, he would have spent two months behind bars before being released into a house-arrest situation where he would undergo drug testing and random monitoring and be required to work, attend drug treatment programs and live in a drug-free environment.

But two weeks after he was sentenced, Bennett’s lawyer filed a sealed request that sought a lighter sentence.

On Nov. 21, Judge Kenneth Brown deferred the rest of Bennett’s jail sentence, released him and gave him a week to enroll in the Farnum Center treatment program in Franklin. Bennett also paid $720 in restitution to Manchester police.

It’s unclear whether Bennett ever completed the Farnum Center program.

Meanwhile, Dionne said the SATCO program, which started in May, is running well.

Five inmates have completed the program, and 57 are currently enrolled; 23 of them are in the community being monitored with ankle bracelets.

Dionne said some have failed drug tests, which is deemed a relapse. They end up back in jail but are eventually returned to the house arrest situations, Dionne said.

Three have absconded from the program, a more serious offense that results in escape charges. One has been found and warrants have been issued for the other two, he said. “It’s been very successful so far for the numbers we have.”

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