BURLINGTON — A Brattleboro man who officials say has long ignored court orders and police orders has pleaded guilty to possession of a handgun by a convicted felon during his arrest outside a local Dunkin Donuts last year.
Christian “Twin” Torruellas, 30, had eluded police for four months on a pending New Jersey warrant when he was arrested in Brattleboro in February 2021, records show. They found that Torruellas had violated multiple supervised release conditions imposed on a previous conviction of gun possession as a felon in New Jersey.
Torruellas is listed in court records as a “gang associate/member” and was told he was undergoing drug and alcohol treatment and a substance abuse test when he was sent to federal prison for the 2016 New Jersey gun case.
Investigators found incriminating evidence on his two cellphones during his Vermont arrest, including a photo dated Nov. 2, 2020 showing a firearm, a silencer and an expanded magazine, court filings say. There was a second gunshot dated January 1, 2021.
There was also a screenshot on his phone that read: “They call it armed robbery. I call it people who give me gifts to celebrate my new gun,” the court filings dated February 2, 2021 said.
Prosecutors maintained that some of the text messages used slang for weapons, including “belt” and “drill,” and one thread was troubling. “This thread also contains a reference to ‘the trenches,’ which appears to refer to warfare,” reads a court filing.
Torruellas was due to be tried in US District Court in Rutland earlier this month, but he reached a last-minute settlement that calls for between 30 and 41 months in prison when he was sentenced in March, officials said.
Torruellas is expected to serve around 25 months in prison before his conviction.
Chief Justice Geoffrey W. Crawford directed the US Parole Board during the Nov. 4 plea bargaining hearing in Burlington to prepare a pre-sentence investigative report. Crawford also ordered Torruellas to remain incarcerated at the Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans Town.
Torruellas has been jailed since February 2021, when then-Judge John M. Conroy ruled the weight of evidence against the Windham County man was strong, citing his criminal history. Conroy also noted that Torruellas had both prior criminal activity and prior violations while on probation, parole, or supervised release. Conroy also said Torruellas lacks stable employment and significant family or community ties to keep him in Vermont.
Torruellas was sentenced to 42 months in prison on February 22, 2016 in New Jersey for being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm. He was released from prison on June 26, 2019 and was released under custody for three years. He had compliance issues and was briefly arrested and then released to house arrest. Torruellas failed to comply with rules imposed by the court and refused to meet with a probation officer to set up site surveillance, records show.
A federal arrest warrant was finally issued on Oct. 6, 2020, and Torruellas continued to evade authorities, but Deputy U.S. Marshal David Rice in Vermont determined the defendant lived in an apartment in Brattleboro, records show.
During surveillance in February 2021, Rice and others saw Torruellas exit the apartment and drive to a nearby Dunkin Donuts. The authorities locked the rental car in the through lane, court records show. Torruellas tried to escape by driving over a snowdrift, but the limousine got stuck. Deputy marshals eventually had to use a taser to stop Torruellas and get him to obey orders, records show.
When they dragged Torruellas out of the car, a .38-caliber revolver was found on the floor next to the driver’s seat, Rice said. Two cell phones were also confiscated, court records show.
Torruellas is well known to police in the Brattleboro and Keene, NH area. He and his twin brother Christopher, both residing in Jersey City, NJ, as of October 2014, were leading Vermont state police and New Hampshire police in a 19-mile chase, newspaper reports said. A Vermont State Police squad car was cut down during the chase, police said.
Barbed strips were deployed three times before traffic stop was conducted in Westmoreland, NH Christopher was caught after a brief foot chase, while Christian was arrested in a barn about 45 minutes later, police said.
Assistant US Attorney Gregory Waples told Judge Crawford Nov. 4 that Vermont’s plea deal does not specify whether the jail time will run concurrently or sequentially with any time Torruellas might receive for the pending indictment in New Jersey.
The plea agreement also says Torruellas will not be charged with any other crimes known to the government, including gun violations, Crawford said in court.
According to charges filed in October 2020, Torruellas faces at least seven violations of his conditions of supervised release. He was under orders not to commit any new crimes, but Newark Police arrested him for aggravated assault and two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm in June 2020, records show. He first hit his girlfriend when she wouldn’t get his cigarettes, and later she was woken up by Torruellas waving a black pistol and telling her to get him cigarettes, court records show. Bullet casings and a firearm were found in the apartment, according to records.
Torruellas also failed to contact his parole officer or find employment, the warrant said. He also changed his home address without notifying the parole board and said he had no interest in any site surveillance ordered by the court, records show.
Torruellas also failed to tell the parole board that he was pulled over and drugs were found in his car and he was with two men – one of whom had an extensive criminal record. The terms of Torruellas’ release prohibit him from associating with known criminals, the records say.
The New Jersey case was ordered until the Vermont case was resolved.
Torruellas had secured another plea deal in his Vermont case in January, but as he prepared to go to court, he asked the judge to replace veteran Brattleboro defense attorney William Kraham, who was appointed by the court. Torruellas remained in prison as a replacement lawyer was found and the case was dragged out. Now the plea deal with Burlington attorney Karen Shingler is complete.