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Vermont Supreme Court Upholds Drug Conviction Of Ferraro’s Son

March 10, 1990

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) _ The Vermont Supreme Court has upheld the 1988 drug conviction of John Zaccaro Jr., the son of former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro.

In a unanimous decision released Friday, the court rejected claims by Zaccaro’s attorneys that his conviction for possessing and selling cocaine should be reversed. The justices rejected arguments that, among other things, the 1986 undercover police operation was conducted illegally and Zaccaro was the victim of selective prosecution because of his mother’s fame.

″While the officers involved acknowledged awareness of the fact that defendant is the son of a public figure, there is no indication that this was a motivating factor in the state’s decision to prosecute defendant,″ Associate Justice Ernest W. Gibson wrote in the decision.

Vermont Attorney General Jeffrey Amestoy said he was pleased with the court’s decision.

″What you had here was somebody intending to sell drugs who got caught,″ Amestoy said. ″It’s clear from the court’s opinion that the legal arguments of the defendant were without bearing.″

Kathleen Sullivan, a Harvard Law School professor who represented Zaccaro during the appeal, said the main issue in the appeal was the entry into Zaccaro’s home by an undercover state trooper.

″We’re very disappointed that the Vermont Supreme Court didn’t realize the importance of protecting the home from undercover searches,″ Sullivan said. ″This is something that affects all the citizens of the state of Vermont.″

Sullivan also disagreed with the court’s ruling on the selective prosecution issue.

″We all know that John Zaccaro would have been in less trouble if he had not been the son of a famous lady,″ Sullivan said.

Sullivan said the family had not yet determined whether further legal action will be taken.

Zaccaro, then a student at Middlebury College, was arrested Feb. 20, 1986, at his Middlebury home after selling $25 worth of cocaine to an undercover Vermont State Trooper. The trooper, a woman, had been invited into Zaccaro’s home by his roommate.

Zaccaro was convicted of possession and sale of a regulated drug in April 1988 and sentenced to one-to-five years in prison.

In claiming that he was the victim of selective prosecution, Zaccaro said other Middlebury College students had been caught using cocaine but had not been prosecuted. Testimony revealed that those students had been caught by Middlebury College authorities who did not release the information to police.

″Defendant here has failed to meet his burden of showing that others who were similarly situated were not prosecuted,″ the justices said.

The court also denied Zaccaro’s claims that his right to a fair trial was violated when the district court allowed testimony based on suppressed evidence, and that the judge’s instructions to the jury on entrapment were erroneous.

Zaccaro actually served three months under house arrest. The sentence was criticized when it became known Zaccaro was serving the sentence in a $1,500- a-month Burlington apartment with maid service.

Zaccaro also completed more than 500 hours of community service by working at the King Street Youth Center for troubled youth.

His mother was the 1984 Democratic vice-presidential nominee.

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