Defense attorney misled state rep. in letter request for defendant, rep. says | News

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AMESBURY — When state Rep. Andy Vargas, D-Haverhill, wrote a character letter for a local man accused of strangling his girlfriend and threatening to break his baby’s neck, it raised the eyebrows of not only an Essex County prosecutor but a Newburyport District Court judge. 

Days later, Vargas apologized for writing the letter for Jeremy Poisson calling it a “poor decision.” 

“As a state representative I am often asked for, and I regularly provide, letters of reference/support for constituents. In this instance, the full details of the situation were withheld from me. In contacting me for a letter, the defense attorney did not disclose the most troubling details of the case, specifically that his client was charged with strangulation. While I was misled by the defense attorney, I nevertheless take full responsibility for not doing my own due diligence. I have long been an advocate against domestic violence and had I been provided all the details of this case, I would have never written the letter,” Vargas wrote in a statement. 

Poisson, 28, of Whitehall Road, was charged March 6 with strangulation/suffocation, assault and battery on a family/household member and intimidating a witness. During his appearance Friday in Newburyport District Court, Poisson saw all charges continued without a finding for 18 months. During that time, he must not abuse the victim and their son and must stay away from the Whitehall Road apartment they shared.

Vargas said the letter request came shortly after his son was born in March and was trying to take some paternity time while also staying on top of his workload remotely.

“Obviously, it was a poor decision and does not reflect my usual work ethic and diligence,” Vargas added. 

Judge Richard Mori’s decision came after Poisson’s attorney, James Hetu, notified him that Vargas vouched for his character via a one-page letter introduced to the court that day.

In the letter, Vargas wrote that he and Poisson went to Haverhill High School together and volunteered for multiple projects in the community. One of them was organizing a basketball tournament between law enforcement officials and area youths, while others involved area cleanup efforts.

“Throughout my time knowing Jeremy, I have known him to be a kind, thoughtful and creative person This is why at this time I am happy to speak to his character,” Vargas wrote.

Mori said it was virtually unheard of for a state representative or state senator to write a character reference for a person facing such serious charges.

Essex County prosecutor Michelle Blemonte said she was “at a loss of words” as to why Vargas would write a letter and suggested he did so not knowing Poisson was being held without bail after a judge found him too dangerous to be released while awaiting trial.

Hetu told Mori that Vargas wrote the letter knowing full well his client was being held without bail.

An email and phone message to Hetu for comment were not returned as of Monday evening, April 11.

Dave Rogers is a reporter with the Daily News of Newburyport. Email him at: Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008. 

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