BENNINGTON — A former Manchester police officer was handed a suspended sentence and four years of probation after pleading guilty to his role in stealing $2,295 from the department evidence room in 2017.
Daniel Steere, appearing Wednesday morning in Bennington Superior criminal court, pleaded guilty to neglect of duty, a misdemeanor.
Last year, Steere pleaded not guilty to charges of grand larceny greater than $900 and embezzlement in an official capacity. Both felony offenses are punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
But prosecutors and Steere’s defense attorney, Dan McManus, worked out a plea in which Steere pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of neglect of duty.
Superior Court Judge Cortland Corsones agreed to the plea, in which Steere was handed a 6- to 12-month suspended sentence, four years of probation and a prohibition from working as a law enforcement officer.
The felony charges were dismissed without prejudice, but will remain unsealed during Steere’s four years of probation. Steere also agreed to waive the statute of limitations on those charges and to continue counseling.
Corsones said the agreement properly balanced Steere’s 15 years of service to Manchester and eight years of military service, and the impact of a mental health condition that he was coping with at the time, with the higher standard of behavior expected from law enforcement, and the breach of public trust that was committed in the theft.
“This agreement is appropriate,” he said. “It provides for rehabilitation, as well as the fact he is not serving as a police officer but allows him to keep his current employment.”
Steere was accused of taking cash that Manchester Police had seized in a traffic stop in April 2017, according to court documents. He was serving as the department’s temporary evidence custodian at the time.
The department discovered the cash missing from its evidence room in March 2018, when the state ordered the money returned to its owner after the case had been settled. Vermont State Police investigated at the request of then-Manchester Police Chief Michael Hall.