Counsel speaks out on behalf of Easton client busted for crystal meth

Mark Sherman, the Stamford criminal lawyer for an Easton man who was arrested after police recovered more than a pound and a half of suspected crystal methamphetamine from a room he rented, explained that his client's case is one of addiction, not distribution.  

Sherman represents Cavan Devine, 24, of 55 Silver Hill Road, Easton, who was charged Dec. 5 by the Easton Police Department with operating a drug factory, possession of narcotics, two counts of possession of narcotics with intent to sell, failure to keep narcotics in original container, disorderly conduct, and sale of narcotics.

"It's a sensitive and serious health matter that we hope to work through with the assistance of the court and its intervention services," Sherman said.

Sherman said he believes the police reports will show that his client did not order the alleged amounts of drugs, and that his client has never sold or distributed drugs in the past.

The investigation stemmed from calls over the weekend that originated from 55 Silver Hill Road, where Cavan Devine, 24, was renting a room, according to police Chief Tim Shaw. Additionally, 577 Xanax pills were seized along with other packaging information, a cell phone and a computer, Shaw said.

The crystal meth is valued at more than $50,000 and the pills are valued at over $10,000. This is one of the largest seizures of crystal meth in the area, Shaw said. Officers responded to the address over the weekend and met with occupants who led the officers to the evidence, Shaw said. The evidence included packaging, scales, and residue, along with other evidence.

Devine was living at the Nexus sober house at 55 Silver Hill Road. Shaw said he couldn’t say anything further with regard to the sober house because of privacy laws. He said officers had been working around the clock since responding to the address over the weekend.

Easton has had a stormy relationship with the Nexus sober house since becoming aware of its existence in 2013. A series of investigations and a cease-and-desist order against the house ultimately led to a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former house manager and the the house’s founder against town officials involved in investigating the case. The Board of Selectmen settled the complaints in August 2014.

The founder and owner of the Nexus sober house is Sal Dinardo of Trumbull.

Evidence tested positive

The suspected narcotic evidence found in Devine's room was taken to the Newtown Police Department for testing and showed a positive reaction for the presence of suspected crystal meth. Officers went back to the home later, on Dec. 5, and Devine was arrested  at 5:10 p.m., when he was coming back to the home to gather personal belongings.

He was charged without incident and taken to the Easton Police Department, where he was processed. Officers then executed search warrants of Devine’s vehicle and his room in the home at 55 Silver Hill Road. An additional search warrant was executed at the Holiday Inn, 1070 Main Street in Bridgeport, Shaw said.

Devine had recently rented a room at the hotel. A small quantity of suspected crystal meth and further evidence was seized. Officers were assisted by the Drug Enforcement Administration Bridgeport office throughout the investigation, Shaw said.

An arrest warrant was signed and bond was set at $500,000. Easton police took Devine to court Dec. 6 for arraignment.  

There was no evidence that the crystal meth was made by Devine, Shaw said. Evidence seized showed signs of the purchase and resale being done through the mail. Officers will continue to work with the DEA on the investigation. The U.S. Postal Service is assisting with the investigation, Shaw said.

Prior arrests

Devine turned himself in at Wilton police headquarters on Nov. 11 on an active warrant issued by Norwalk Superior Court on Oct. 26, according to The Wilton Bulletin.  The warrant stemmed from a failure to appear at Norwalk Court after receiving a ticket in Wilton for driving with a suspended license and failing to return license and registration on July 13.

Wilton police initially pulled Devine over because he appeared to be texting on a cell phone near the intersection of Route 7 and Kensett Avenue. He was given a verbal warning for using a handheld device while driving but was ticketed for driving with a license that had been suspended since June 10, according to police.

Devine was fingerprinted, photographed and released by Wilton police on a $495 cash bond. He was scheduled to appear at Norwalk Superior Court on Nov. 22.

Devine was arrested Nov. 18 for narcotics possession, drug paraphernalia and interfering with an officer after his vehicle was stopped on Myrtle Avenue in Westport, according to 

As Devine was looking for the paperwork requested by the officer, a second officer noticed a glass smoking pipe in plain view. Officers conducted a search of the vehicle and located methamphetamine and several used and new syringes, according to Unable to post a $1,000 bond, he was taken to Norwalk Superior Court.

Easton’s stormy relationship with Nexus sober house

Controversy over the Nexus house erupted in July 2013 after a bloody brawl between two house residents spilled onto a neighbor’s porch. The neighbor had a 2-year-old son at the time. He and other residents complained to the Board of Selectmen.

Silver Hill Road residents questioned how a so-called sober house — or nexus house — came to be located in their rural neighborhood without their knowing anything about it or having any say in the matter. Easton police had no knowledge of a halfway house or transitional housing on Silver Hill Road before the July incident, according to then police Chief James Candee.

Town officials subsequently consulted with counsel to determine the house’s legality and whether it complied with local zoning regulations. Ira Bloom, of Berchem, Moses & Devlin, town counsel, asked the principals to sign an affidavit to show how many people were living there and provide other information. When the affidavit wasn’t forthcoming, he counseled town officials to issue a cease-and-desist order.

After several months of investigation, it became clear that the six men who then lived in the Nexus house as they recovered from drug and alcohol addiction were protected by federal and state laws that trumped local zoning rules. Under laws, the six recovering men were covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act, as well as state statutes for the disabled.

That shut down any hopes residents might have had of closing down the Nexus operation with local zoning rules. Residents said they objected to the Nexus house partly because it was a business operating in a residential zone, and they feared it could lead to other small business operations.

Counsel recommended confirming with the operators of the Nexus house in an affidavit the number of residents and their disability or handicap, and the lack of any licensing requirements. Counsel also recommended periodic inspections for fire, safety, building, and zoning compliance, and the establishment of a direct contact number for neighbors so they could call about any disruptive lighting, noise or other activities.

However, the turbulent relationship between the town and the sober house grew stormier with the filing of a federal complaint against the town in May 2014. Domingos Dias, a former house manager, director and resident of the facility filed a housing discrimination complaint against the town, the Planning & Zoning Commission, First Selectman Adam Dunsby, and Zoning Enforcement Officer Phillip Doremus under the Fair Housing Act.

Dias claimed the town did not want recovering alcoholics and drug addicts in its midst. The complaint alleged the town was imposing zoning and other land use restrictions as a pretext to discriminate. It cited the Civil Rights Act of 1968 as amended by the Fair Housing Act of 1988.

Dias was sentenced May 13, 2014, in Bridgeport to 30 months of incarceration in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release for his part in a multimillion-dollar mortgage fraud scheme.

Salvatore DiNardo of Trumbull, a real estate developer, who formed Nexus House LLC in 2012, filed a second complaint. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development accepted the complaint and referred it to the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.

The human rights and opportunities commission in turn ordered the town to file a written answer, under oath, within 10 days of receipt of the complaint. The Board of Selectmen subsequently authorized First Selectman Adam Dunsby to sign a Predetermination Conciliation Agreement with Nexus sober house to allow up to eight individuals to live at the facility.

Dunsby explained the terms of the agreement to the Board of Selectmen in August 2014 and said it was understood that signing the agreement did not constitute an admission by the town of violating any laws or regulations under Connecticut fair housing statutes. The agreement stated that Nexus house could operate with up to eight residents at the property who are living and participating in the program.

“The agreement says that they are now in fact limited to eight, and the town is not giving anything,” Dunsby said at the time. “The town never did limit them anyway before. They can’t go back to CHRO and say they want 10 people or 12 people. Without this they can come back and say they want 12 people and if the zoning commission says no, they can come back and sue.”

Dunsby said the agreement has other protections for the town, such as rules of conduct that Nexus house residents must follow. The selectmen voted in favor of signing the agreement at their Aug. 13, 2014, meeting.

Read more about the Nexus house by clicking the links below:

Unwelcome neighbor: ‘Sober house’ ruckus erupts on Silver Hill Road

P&Z: Town may seek warrant to inspect Nexus House

Nexus House: More questions than answers from ZEO report

Town rescinds order against Nexus house to cease and desist

Nexus house manager sentenced for $3.2 million mortgage fraud

Report from town counsel on Nexus House expected tonight

Nexus Sober House: Easton gets a second discrimination complaint

Nexus sober house ordered to cease and desist by May 6

Easton issues cease and desist order to Nexus Sober House

Nexus sober house: Residential or commercial? ZEO investigates

Sober House must stay

Town will seek counsel on legality of sober house

Nexus house manager files discrimination complaint against Easton

Selectmen sign agreement with CHRO

Town ponders CHRO settlement