Putative victims said friendly gathering took a sinister turn
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION - A veteran who was described by one of his accusers as “beyond drunk” when he allegedly menaced two teenagers with an assault rifle and a large caliber handgun a week ago during a gathering at his home in Rochester, Vermont has been allowed to remain in his house under a court-ordered 24-hour curfew, with the only exception being taking one of his children to and from school.
Prosecutors had asked the court to hold Stephen Kondi Jr., 41, in pre-trial detention without bail after he pleaded innocent to two felony counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon; however, despite what Judge Timothy Tomasi called the “obviously very concerning behavior,” he agreed to let Kondri return home as long as no guns or alcohol are accessible to him there while his case is pending.
Vermont state police had already seized seven guns from the home after Dominique Gonzalez, 18, and Eric Washburn, 17, made formal complaints to the Randolph Police Department about the events that allegedly took place on the evening of Friday, January 5th.
Kondri’s fiancée, Victoria Kelley, also agreed to take responsibility for supervising Kondri’s compliance with the court’s release conditions and to remove all alcohol from the residence.
“I’m not going to allow him to drink. I’m not going to allow alcohol in the house, period,” Kelley assured Judge Tomasi after she said she had not had a drink herself in over three years and added that “every time (police have been called on Kondi over the years) it has been drinking that leads up to it.”
Despite that assessment, Kelley, along with two of Kondri’s college-aged daughters disputed the accounts of three of their teenaged friends who said that what had started last week as a casual evening of drinking and playing games devolved into a series of threats at gunpoint.
An affidavit prepared by Vermont State Police Trooper Stacy Corliss quoted Gonzalez as saying that initially when the small group began drinking hard lemonade, with the exception of Washburn who was the designated driver, “the night had been going well and that everyone was getting along and having a good time” until “Stephen went upstairs briefly and came back down brandishing an AR-15 style rifle with a magazine that was not inserted into the weapon.”
“Dominique said that (Kondi) kept asking Eric to go outside with him and told him to leave his phone inside but Eric refused to go outside…Stephen was talking about his prior military service and was harassing Eric about not wanting to join the military,” the trooper quoted Gonzalez as explaining.
In his own sworn account, Washburn told police that, after rambling on about his military exploits, Kondri returned from the upstairs with the assault rifle and at one point “inserted the magazine into the weapon and proceeded to point it at (Washburn) in the area of his neck…for a few seconds” until one of Washburn’s daughters calmed him down and got him to set down the gun.
Washburn said that Kondri also made a series of implied threats to him, including remaking to him "You are in the middle of nowhere. You could go missing and no one would find you."
Washburn told police he “was very scared and really shaken up” and so he and his girlfriend Nichole Huntley made their excuses and left a short time later.
Gonzalez told police “that after (the couple left) Stephen seemed to turn his attention to her…he told her to come outside with him at which time she tried to stall him because she was uncomfortable with the situation involving the AR-15,” according to the police report which went on to say that Gonzalez “watched him load the weapon and turn the safety off…he then stepped just outside the door and fired off” approximately 14 rounds, clearing the gun and dropping one bullet on the floor which Gonzalez said she picked up and put her in purse to keep it away from him because “he did not even notice that a round had been ejected.”
A short time later, Gonzalez said, Kondri returned with another gun, this time a silver “full-size” .45 caliber pistol, which he loaded a magazine into, explaining to her “the damage these particular rounds cause,” before allegedly pointing the loaded gun at her head from approximately five-to-six feet way despite her repeatedly asking him not to do so.
Gonzalez told police she was “really scared” while the gun was pointed at her for what she estimated was a minute or two and even after Kondi stopped brandishing it, Gonzalez said she was in extreme fear about what might happen at any moment.
The teen explained to investigators that she did not feel like there was a safe opportunity to leave given the state Kondi was in, which she described as “beyond drunk,” and so she stayed up through the night while she said Kondi “talked to her the whole time about his military experience, how deadly he is, how the FBI wouldn’t give him guns because he is so dangerous and how the military would not allow him to have any firearms.”
Eventually at 5:30 a.m. Kondi went upstairs to bed and Gonzalez said she slept sitting up on a couch for another three hours until she could text her parents to come pick her up. Gonzalez said she had them meet her down the road from the house, saying that she “could not drive home because she was so shaken up from the events of the evening.”
The teens did not report the incident to police until Monday and during Kondri’s arraignment on Tuesday afternoon his public defender, attorney Robert Lees, noted that Erin Kondri had filed her own sworn statement with investigators in which she maintain “no guns were pointed at anyone.”
Lees argued, successfully, against holding Kondri without bail, arguing that he is not an on-going threat to the teens.
“This was the first time Mr. Kondri met the complainants,” Lees said of last Friday’s gathering. “They have no bad blood between them.”
Stephen Kondri Jr., 41, of Rochester, Vermont in court this week with his public defender Robert Lees
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