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Prosecutor Says Zaccaro Drug Case Was More Than Possession

April 11, 1988

RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) _ A prosecutor says he refused to reduce a felony charge against John Zaccaro Jr. because ″there was plenty of evidence″ that the son of former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro was selling cocaine.

Ferraro said she and her candidacy were partly to blame for her son’s conviction Saturday, but blasted Addison County State’s Attorney John Quinn for failing to accept a plea bargain.

Quinn said he was reluctant because of the problem of drugs in society.

″I recently prosecuted a guy on a felony charge for 37 marijuana plants. Perhaps in some counties they might have reduced that. But as time goes on I feel more strongly about drug cases,″ Quinn said Sunday. ″I just think it’s becoming more of a problem in the country and we need to deter that.″

Zaccaro, 24, was convicted of selling one-quarter gram of cocaine to an undercover officer at his off-campus apartment on Feb. 20, 1986. He was a senior at Middlebury College at the time.

No sentencing date has been set. The felony conviction carries a maximum sentence of five years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

At a news conference after the verdict, Ferraro said the family would appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court.

″We still believe he was set up,″ she said.

Ferraro blamed her son for possession of cocaine, as well as herself ″and my candidacy for making my son a target.″ She was the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 1984.

But she said Quinn prolonged ″the agony for two years″ by not allowing Zaccaro to plead to a lesser count of cocaine possession.

″We, as his parents, would not allow him to plead guilty″ to the felony charge of selling cocaine, Ferraro said.

″To me it was clearly a selling case,″ said Quinn, who said the family first approached him about a pea agreement at Zaccaro’s arraignment. ″There was plenty of evidence he was selling. I never considered a possession case and they know that.″

He added, ″If she wants to be angry at me for not reducing the charge, that’s her prerogative. I didn’t feel there was any justification for reducing the charge.″

Zaccaro’s defense lawyer, Charles Tetzlaff, had argued that his client was entrapped by a young, inexperienced, attractive female undercover police officer.

″This is a case of improper and overzealous police conduct,″ he told jurors.

But Quinn called Zaccaro a well-organized drug dealer, and said he was known on campus as ″The Pharmacist″ because of his reputation as a dealer.

After Zaccaro’s arrest, Middlebury College officials formed a task force to look at the campus drug problem. After more than a dozen meetings, it made 20 recommendations, most of which were implemented by college trustees.

They included the hiring of a health educator, publication of a drug brochure, additional security staff, and improved relations with the Middlebury police.

Most Middlebury students questioned about the case said the outcome did not concern them. ″My sophomore year it was more interesting. But now, half the people on campus weren’t even here,″ said Bob Woithe, a senior from Palm Island, Fla.

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