Man denies drug trafficking, threats to hotel employee

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BENNINGTON — A Hudson Valley man who police said threatened a hotel employee has denied charges in connection with the discovery of what police believe is fentanyl in his hotel room.

Todd R. Johnson, 47, of Beacon, N.Y., pleaded not guilty in Bennington criminal court on Friday to a felony count of trafficking fentanyl, and misdemeanor counts of criminal threatening, aggravated disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Johnson, who does not have a criminal history in Vermont, was ordered held on $50,000 bail by Judge John W. Valente.

Bennington police were called to the Best Western hotel at 250 Northside Drive just before 5:30 p.m. on Thursday for a report of a customer threatening an employee, according to a court affidavit. When an officer arrived on scene, the man, later identified as Johnson, had run across the street into the American Legion post.

When officers tried to put him in handcuffs, Johnson "began to pull away," leading a corporal to draw his Taser and order him to the ground. After being handcuffed, Johnson "refused to stand saying he was paralyzed and that his legs did not work."

Police said Johnson displayed "erratic behavior" and made "statements that were confusing" to officers. While waiting for Bennington Rescue Squad to arrive, Johnson made comments about there being "meth" in his hotel room.

Police were told Johnson came to the hotel's front desk and started to yell about needing his room cleaned. When told cleaning staff had gone home, he "became aggressive," calling a female employee an obscenity while slamming his fists on the counter. The woman told police she was scared for her life.

Police said Johnson consented to a search of his room. Officers uncovered a "white cylinder chalk like material the size of a human finger" in a torn plastic bag, an uncapped used syringe and a broken glass smoking device that police said was used to smoke crack cocaine or meth.

Officers suspected the white material was fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that is often mixed with street heroin but many times more potent.

Court records show a public defender challenged probable cause on the drug charge and that drug lab testing results are expected this week.

Johnson is scheduled to return to court on Friday.

Ed Damon can be reached at edamon@benningtonbanner.com, at @edamon_banner on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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