One simply cannot have a conversation about the blues—or, for that matter, the electric guitar—without mentioning B.B. King. Over the course of a decades-long career that saw him continue to perform right up to his death at age 89 in 2015, King established himself as a musical legend. He was a pioneer of the blues, helping to define the sound and style that continues to have a fundamental influence on everything from rock n’ roll to funk to hip-hop to this day.Musicians from across the spectrum have been vocal about the massive influence King has had on them, and on music as a whole. After King’s death, Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio said in a tribute to the blues legend, “It’s literally impossible to overstate B.B. King’s influence on every single electric guitarist who followed in his path. All of us who have ever bent a note owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.”Related: Trey Anastasio Performs “I Never Needed You Like This Before” With The Roots On ‘Fallon’ [Watch]This reverence is on full display in the video below. In this segment from an old episode of All Access, King jams with Anastasio and The Roots on the blues standard “Rock Me Baby”, and the performers speak about their mutual respect as musicians. Enjoy!B.B. King with The Roots, Trey Anastasio – “Rock Me Baby”[Video: Élida Cubas]Following King’s death, Anastasio shared thoughtful memories of their time together.“In between takes, we all started jamming, just making stuff up,” Anastasio said of the late guitarist in 2015. “There was one particular moment where it just got so, so good. B.B. was absolutely cooking on the guitar, Questlove and the rest of the Roots were grooving so deeply, and I was standing right next to B.B. trading licks. I was in heaven.”B.B. King was a larger-than-life figure in music, and his passing in 2015 still feels fresh for many of his fans. With the undeniable mark that he left on the music of his era and countless artists that followed, however, the King of the Blues’ legacy will live on forever.[Originally published 9/16/17]
United States Attorney for Vermont, Christina Nolan during her interview for this article, which first appeared in the December issue of Vermont Business Magazine. Photos: Randolph T. Holhut.by Joyce Marcel, Vermont Business Magazine Glass ceilings are being broken all over America in the wake of last month’s election, but Vermont has always been somewhat — I say somewhat — ahead of the game. While the state has never followed up on former Governor Madeleine Kunin’s tenure in office with another female governor, nor sent a woman to Congress, since 2017 US Attorney District of Vermont Christina Elizabeth Nolan, 41, has been the first female US attorney in Vermont’s history.As an added and celebratory note, she was sworn in by the first female US District Court for Vermont judge, the Honorable Christina Reiss.Nolan, 41, a hard-line law-and-order prosecutor, is a native Vermonter. She was born at Fletcher Allen (UVM Medical Center), grew up in Burlington, graduated from the University of Vermont summa cum laude in political science and history and got her law degree — magna cum laude —at Boston College Law School because it had a great reputation and wasn’t too far away from home.She was appointed to her current job by President Donald Trump after being recommended by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Governor Phil Scott. Her nomination was ratified unanimously by the US Senate.Photo: United States Attorney for Vermont, Christina Nolan during her interview for this article. Photo: Randolph T. HolhutTraditionally, the person in her job serves at the pleasure of the president and resigns when he leaves office.Since this is anything but a traditional election year, Nolan’s future may be in limbo long after this story appears in VBM.Politics aside, Nolan feels it is “an incredible honor” to be the first woman US attorney for Vermont.“For me, it adds a layer of responsibility,” Nolan said. “You want to be the first woman and do it well, not the first woman and do it badly. Nobody wants to do it badly. But I think that it added a layer of responsibility to a job that already carries tremendous responsibility. I hope it sends a message to every woman in Vermont — and maybe for any young woman, anywhere — that you can be anything you want to be in life. It’s just as my parents taught me: there is no field that you should consider not open to you because of your gender, including law enforcement. That’s the message I hope it sends. And while it may have taken a while to get to the place of the first woman, I know I won’t be the last woman. There will be others to follow because there’s so many great and qualified female attorneys in Vermont. There are glass ceilings to be broken all over the country — and in Vermont, for sure.”Nolan sees her job as preventing crime and getting justice for its victims when a crime occurs.“We enforce, here in the US Attorney’s Office, the criminal laws of the United States,” Nolan said. “We also represent the United States in civil actions. I am enforcing federal criminal laws which apply all over the country, including here in Vermont. And there’s an array of them covering everything from money laundering to violent crime, child sexual exploitation and drug trafficking.”Remaining impartial is critical, she said.“You don’t have any improper considerations that go into your charging decisions,” Nolan said. “You’re not allowed to consider anything impermissible. You’re not allowed to charge them because you don’t like something about them, or for a political reason, or any other improper reason. But we do represent our side. Does that make sense? You want to administer justice even-handedly and bring charges even-handedly, without any impermissible motives, just based on the facts, and the evidence and the law. You’re representing the United States. And so you’re doing the best you can by the people of the country, the people of Vermont, and the laws that they’ve enacted.”In distributing cases, Nolan’s office works closely with the Vermont Attorney General’s office.“There are many cases that could go to either place, because we both have potential to bring charges up for the same conduct,” Nolan said. “So we work very closely with the state’s attorneys to decide where it makes the most sense to charge a case. They know what cases to call us on and what cases could potentially be brought federally. We have only 15 full-time prosecutors in this office, so we can’t do them all. But we try to do as many as we can, where it makes sense and where we can best support our state prosecutors. There are some cases that can only go one way or the other and we know what those are. On the ones where it could go either way, they know to call us. We figure it out together. What makes the most sense? Who has enough resources? And where will we get the best result?”Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan holds Nolan in high regard.“I knew about her growing up,” Donovan said. “My sisters went to Rice Memorial High School with her. She was a great basketball player, and we’ve known people in common. She’s a great partner and I think very highly of her. Even though we’re clearly of different political parties and different political philosophies, when it comes to public safety the differences don’t matter, and we work on the areas that are important to Vermonters. I think she’s done a really nice job focusing on human trafficking and the heroin epidemic. She’s been a very good US attorney. We’ve been able to put our differences aside, and that’s how government should work.”Nolan is eminently newsworthy.She recently made national news when she announced her office had broken a “kickback” scandal relating to an electronic medical records company called Practice Fusion, Inc.The company took a $1 million bribe from the infamous drug company Purdue Pharma to quietly, successfully and illegally push its main product, the addictive drug OxyContin, to physicians during the height of the opioid addiction problem — a problem which still haunts Vermont and the entire US.The investigation, which began in Nolan’s office in 2016, resulted in the currently bankrupt Purdue Pharma settling with federal prosecutors for $8 billion.“And I hope that our case sends a message to Big Pharma and Big Tech, that we do have the determination and the talent and resources to investigate these,” Nolan said. “And we’re hoping it stops this from happening again.”This isn’t the first time Nolan has been front and center on a big breaking news story. In October her office released information about an 18-month multi-agency operation — colorfully named “Operation Fury Road” — that focused on drug and illegal gun traffic on Interstate 91. It resulted in 82 federal prosecutions.Also this year, Nolan announced that $6 million in federal funding was coming to Vermont nonprofits that support victims of domestic violence.Nolan’s been at the center of the Jay Peak EB-5 “Ponzi” scam that involved Miami investor Ariel Quiros and others who bilked millions from foreign investors in a case that is still winding its way through the courts.She has a background in white collar crime, but she’s also good at putting bad guys into prison.In September 2020, her office announced that Brian Folks, a drug dealer and sex trafficker, was sentenced to more than 22 years in prison. Besides selling drugs, Folks seduced young women, got them strung out on drugs, and then forced them into prostitution.And in April, Nolan was tapped by her boss, US Attorney General William Barr, to be one of two attorneys overseeing Department of Justice efforts to combat sexual harassment in housing during the COVID-19 pandemic across the United States.So, faster than a speeding bullet, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound? Maybe that’s a good ballpark description of Nolan.She’s definitely something of an avenging angel. She even chose law because of a fierce instinct to protect.“I think I’m just a born advocate for justice,” Nolan said. “I don’t like to see people harmed or victimized or taken advantage of, and I thought that being a lawyer would help address those wrongs, bring justice and hopefully prevent them from happening in the future. Or at least reduce the occurrence of them.”Nolan joined the Department of Justice in Vermont as an assistant US attorney in 2010. She was promoted to the top job in 2017.By all accounts, she has served her state well.“US Attorney Christina Nolan has played a critical role in bringing together our federal, state and local partners to tackle some of the toughest challenges we face in Vermont,” Leahy told VBM. “She has made it a priority to stem the flow of illicit drugs, track illegal gun sales, and support victims whose lives have been upended by criminal acts. Christina has not hesitated to take on complex cases, and in doing so, she has proven herself a highly respected and effective prosecutor.”Judge Reiss also has high praise for Nolan.“I met Christina Nolan when she began practicing in the District of Vermont as an assistant United States attorney on a contract basis,” Reiss said. “Because she did not have a permanent position, she had to prove herself in order to keep her job. Right from the start, she was thorough, prepared, and ready to learn. She was also more skilled than I would have expected from an attorney of her age and experience level. I knew very little about her other than she had been working in Massachusetts. I was delighted to find out that she was a Vermonter who had returned home.”Reiss stressed Nolan’s “quiet confidence” and her “natural courtroom presence: graceful and commanding.”She also said that Nolan is compassionate, intelligent, courageous, committed and has a “steady hand on the steering wheel.”“One thing I have noticed over the years is how incredibly well-spoken she is,” Reiss said. “She is a natural spokesperson for her office and handles difficult subject matters and probing questions directly, without excuses, and in a clear and coherent fashion. She makes it look easy, but it is not. I have not seen her lose her humility since she became US Attorney, so I don’t see a downside. Christina Nolan is competent, calm, even-tempered, confident, and comfortable with who she is. She is committed to the administration of justice, takes her job seriously, and consistently demonstrates integrity and common sense. She has a Vermonter’s common sense and work ethic. I believe that regardless of the heights she reaches in her career, her core values will remain unchanged.”Longtime Vermont journalist Mike Donoghue, who has covered federal prosecutors and federal court in the state off and on for almost 50 years, said Vermont has been blessed with a long line of extremely talented U.S. Attorneys including Nolan.Photo: United States Attorney for Vermont, Christina Nolan during her interview for this article. Photo: Randolph T. Holhut“Christina was an excellent Assistant US Attorney for about seven or eight years before President Trump elevated her,” said Donoghue, who still covers some federal court cases for several media outlets, including the Quiros case for VBM, as part of his semi-retirement.“Christina thinks fast on her feet whether it is a court hearing or a press conference,” Donoghue said. “Her arguments are solid. Her closing statements to the jury have all the elements needed to make a complex case understood. Christina often likes to say her small office gets into legal battles and they aren’t afraid to fight above their weight class. The work to successfully prosecute national pharmaceutical companies and fraud cases shows this. Since taking over the office, Christina has continued to focus on major crime issues in Vermont that attack the quality of life in the state: major drug cases, including overdose deaths; child pornography and human trafficking of children; convicted felons possessing firearms, especially related to domestic violence cases. The only disappointing thing about Christina is that since she became boss, she has put muzzles on her prosecutors, but it may be a directive from the Department of Justice in Washington. She won’t say who ordered it.”From her large and airy office on the third floor of Burlington’s Federal Building, with a beautiful view of the city’s church spires, Nolan oversees a staff of 56 and a budget of approximately $7 million.Seagulls fly outside her windows, and a corner coatrack holds a number of suit jackets she can grab when she needs to look official.She is small in stature but large in intelligence and energy.She is charming, fast-talking, funny and extremely literate.These days, Nolan’s job is mainly managerial.“It’s administrative —setting priorities, making strategic planning decisions about allocating resources, and making personnel decisions,” Nolan said. “It’s also outward-facing in the sense that I talk to the media. And I have responsibilities in Washington. I sit on the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee. There are about 12 or so US attorneys who advise the attorney general on all aspects of policy. I chair the controlled substances subcommittee. So I think a lot about drug policy.”Nolan said she enjoys her trips to Washington.“I think it’s fun to go down to Washington,” she said. “I love seeing my colleagues. I’ve met a lot of people that work at the Justice Department. It’s great to be involved and thinking about these policy questions. I think it’s a privilege to sit on that committee.”Nolan is known for being supportive of her staff; in turn, her staff is supportive of her.“Many in the office agree that Christina’s just been the biggest fan,” said First Assistant US Attorney Kevin J Doyle, who will become a US Magistrate’s Judge in February.“She’s so supportive of the work people here do. She’s a very caring person about each person in the office. She’ll show genuine interest in what’s going on in their personal and professional lives. She acknowledges the work they do, and that’s had a real positive impact on the morale of the office. People really enjoy working for her. She’s a very compassionate person.”Early LifeNolan grew up first on a dirt road in Westford and then in well-paved South Burlington.Her father was a carpenter who later on managed the maintenance crew at the Vermont National Guard. Her mother was a homemaker until Nolan was 12. Then, after divorce forced her into the labor market, she became a high school music teacher.Nolan is the oldest of seven children “if you count them all, which you should,” she said, because her father had three children in a second marriage. Essentially, Nolan and three siblings were raised by a single mother.“It was four kids and a mom, and she had her hands full,” Nolan said. “But I think I learned from both my parents how to treat people well. They certainly did. I think that’s probably the most important thing you can do in life. The other thing I learned from them — that maybe not every kid learns this, but you know, I’m really grateful to them for it — is you can be anything you want to be in life. They always encouraged me. The sky’s the limit. They encouraged me in sports, as well as whatever I wanted to do in life. And so I grew up feeling like I could be anyone I wanted to be.”“Go for what you wanted” was the message she got from her parents.“I think that’s particularly amazing, because they weren’t lawyers, they weren’t doctors,” Nolan said. “But they still recognized that they should instill that ethic in their children.”Behaving well towards others was more important to her parents than accumulating wealth, Nolan said.“They were not focused on money,” she said. “That was always less important. I mean, everybody wants to have some, right? But you know, they never had a lot, and I think they taught me that that is not what makes life rewarding or gives it its joy. It’s other things, like love and friendship and family. And loving what you do for work.”Growing up, Nolan did some babysitting; she also helped with the usual chores around the house.“My dad, like I said, was a carpenter,” she said. “Sometimes I went to work with him. And he would give me odd jobs to do on the properties he was working on. I can remember helping my dad stack wood. I don’t know that I was really paid for that, though. Maybe nominally.”Nolan played basketball in grammar school. At Rice she was a standout at track and cross country, and she especially shone as a point guard in varsity basketball.“You can tell from my height I didn’t have any business trying to be under the rim,” she joked. “I did a lot of passing.”She was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame 10 years after she graduated.Nolan didn’t buy a car until she was in her 20’s.“I did want one,” she said. “But my parents were not the type to just buy things. I think they were the type to say, ‘If you want something, you have to earn it yourself.’ Including college and law school. That was all self-financed with scholarships, grants and loans that I’m still paying. And you know, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It makes you value the degree and the experience more when you’re personally financially responsible for it.”A City MouseNolan hadn’t done much traveling before moving to Boston.“I think the first time I went on a plane was in college for a cross country meet,” Nolan said. “So when I got to Boston, it felt like a big city. But you know, honestly, Boston College Law was the best school I got into. Also, I thought that the smaller size of the school would give it a collegial feel. But mostly, I thought it would be a change.”She loved law school and grew to enjoy Boston.“It was a little intimidating, being in the city and figuring out how to catch the train and which train to catch and where I needed to get off and move to the next one,” Nolan said. “It just felt really big. But there’s lots of things to love about a big city. I like food, and they have a lot of nice restaurants. I started to make friends. So I started to love it after a while, but not as much as I love it here in Vermont.”Nolan went straight from law school to a coveted job clerking for Massachusetts Federal Judge F Dennis Taylor IV.“On my first day, he said, ‘Are you ready to be a federal judge?’” Nolan said. “And I’m just out of law school! The reason he said that is because you really do research and draft the opinions of the court. It’s not to say he wouldn’t change them or make edits or even decide it should be a different outcome. But the main job is to sit, watch the hearings, do the research and draft opinions for the judge. That was a really interesting job to have right out of law school. It obviously helped with my legal analysis and my research abilities, but also hugely with writing. The judge was an excellent writer. He said, ‘I noticed as the year went on that your writing has improved.’ And I think that’s because when you’re being edited by him, the lessons start to take after a while.”While she was still in law school, Nolan worked as a summer associate at a big Boston law firm, Goodwin Procter LLP.According to Wikipedia, it is “a Global 50 law firm consisting of more than 1,200 lawyers with offices in Boston, Cambridge, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Luxembourg, New York City, Paris, Santa Monica, Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. Goodwin focuses on complex transactional work, high-stakes litigation and advisory services in matters involving financial institutions, intellectual property, private equity, real estate capital markets, securities litigation, white collar defense, technology and life sciences.”This description doesn’t make Goodwin sound like a law firm welcoming to a burgeoning avenging angel, but Nolan was still learning and finding her footing.Judge Taylor had been a partner at the firm before he became a judge, so she had the advantage of a strong connection.When Nolan left clerking for Taylor, she took a job at Goodwin.“So if you think it’s intimidating to walk into the Federal Building in Burlington, wait till you walk into Goodwin Procter in Boston,” Nolan said. “It’s a big skyscraper building, all glass, massive lobby. It was a great experience, but it was like being thrown into the fire right away at a young age. A big law firm, hundreds and hundreds of lawyers, high-power clients. They did some pro bono work and I did some, too. But the best part of that experience was helping to represent a man named Rick Lane.”Lane had worked for the pharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb; he was charged with securities fraud by the US Attorney’s Office in New Jersey.“I did think that the government probably overreached in that case,” Nolan said. “Of course, I was one of his lawyers, but the charges ended up being dismissed. There was a deferred prosecution agreement, which basically means, ultimately, if he complies with all the terms of it, the charges are dismissed. So our belief that he was being unfairly charged was actually vindicated.”It was a great experience for a future prosecutor, Nolan said.“I got to know him,” she said. “I went to the meetings where we were preparing for the trial which never happened. I got to see what it’s like to be a defendant, and what it means to charge somebody. Even if the charges are ultimately dismissed, charging somebody changes their life forever. His reputation went overnight from esteemed businessman who picked himself up by the bootstraps, someone with a great career, to being charged with a serious federal felony. It changed his life, his family’s life, and his ability to get work.”From her involvement in Lane’s case, Nolan learned how important it was to “get it right.”“You always want to err on the side of restraint,” she said. “Now, when I’m approving charging decisions, I always have in my mind that we can’t do this unless we’re as sure as we can be, because you don’t want to harm somebody’s life carelessly in an enduring and indelible way. You’ve got to be extremely cautious in your charging decisions.”Other cases didn’t go quite so well. Nolan recalled the first time she went to trial.“When I was at Goodwin Procter I did a six-month externship at the Middlesex County DA’s office,” she said. “They send associates at law firms to do these things because it gives you courtroom experience. So it’s my first week on the job. What happens is that you never know which case is actually going to trial. You don’t have any time to prepare. You read the police report and you meet your witnesses that day. It’s a whole different kind of court. Here in Vermont we prepare endlessly for trials, as we should. There the volume is so high that you just don’t have the ability to do that. So I get my first case for trial. It’s in front of this great judge who everybody respects and admires. She was a former prosecutor. I respect and admire her. And I was just horrible. I mean I was terrible. I was nervous. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I ended up being so bad that she threw the case out without letting the jury decide. And I was mortified.”After the jury was dismissed, the judge called Nolan up to the bench and gave her a serious tongue-lashing. Then Nolan slunk back to the office, only to learn that everyone there had already heard what happened.“And after that, I got a nickname,” Nolan said. “At the Middlesex County DA’s office I was called ‘Vinny,’ after the film ‘My Cousin Vinny.’ That one’s stuck forever. Even when I went back to work there for six months, they still call me Vinny.”Eventually, she became more comfortable in court.“I did see that judge again, as I got a little bit better,” Nolan said. “And she said, ‘You know, one thing about you I noticed is that you don’t make the same mistake twice. You make a lot of them, but you don’t make the same mistake twice.’ We’re not perfect, right? We’re going to make mistakes, but we use it as an opportunity for growth and maybe even inspiration. Right?”Eventually, Nolan went back to the Middlesex County DA’s office to work, this time for free, as a prosecutor.“I went to the prosecution side because I wanted to be in court, but also because at Goodwin Procter I didn’t feel like I was always on cases that were about advocating for justice,” Nolan said. “It was sometimes about who gets the money. And that just wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wasn’t feeling motivated by that work. So I became a state prosecutor in Massachusetts, for no money initially. As I said, my parents didn’t teach me much about money.”Nolan worked for free for half a year until a position in the Vermont US Attorney’s Office opened up.“It made sense for me, because I was interested in being a federal prosecutor as opposed to a state prosecutor,” Nolan said. “And it’s my home state. So it was a great opportunity, and I’m really glad that I was hired. I love Vermont. I think Vermont is the best state in the union. It’s a special place to live, from its natural beauty to its independent-minded people to its stability. So I’m very happy to be here and have never wanted to be back in Boston since.”Back in VermontAs an assistant US attorney, Nolan was plunged into criminal cases that included things like drug trafficking, money laundering and violent crimes.Some of these cases were heartbreaking; all were motivating.“It goes back to wanting to become a lawyer,” Nolan said. “When I see injustice, when I see people harmed — innocent people, whether it be financially harmed, physically harmed or sexually harmed — it motivates me to want to do something about it, and try to get justice for them. And also to send a message to people who would do this in the future: Don’t do it, because there’s going to be consequences. So yeah, it’s sad for any human being who works on these cases, but it’s also what motivates prosecutors, I think, including me.”I asked if she got personally involved in some of her cases and she mentioned a 2015 murder case.“The defendant’s name was Richard Monroe,” Nolan said. “He was a UVM student, and the victim, Kevin DeOliveira, 23, was also a college student. Monroe shot him in the eye over a small drug squabble. Monroe thought that the victim, Kevin, owed him several thousand dollars. And he killed him. The reason I mentioned that case is not only because it was a hard case to investigate — it was a circumstantial case that took a while to put the pieces together. That was interesting and challenging, but it was also because of the mother of this college kid who died. I worked with her and got to know her in the process. And she was one of the most good-hearted people I’ve ever met. She loved her son. They were closely bonded. She lived with questions for a long, long time. How did my son die? Who killed him? And to be able to get those answers for her, being able to fight for her and get the certainty that this wonderful woman needed was very, very meaningful and rewarding.”The case was the culmination of a multi-agency investigation begun in early 2015. The effort was led by the Burlington Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Nolan and Assistant United States Attorney Paul J Van de Graaf prosecuted the case.Monroe eventually pleaded guilty for possessing firearms in furtherance of his cocaine trafficking, discharging a handgun and killing Kevin DeOliveira. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.Attorney Mark Kaplan, who was Monroe’s defense attorney, turns out to be another admirer of Nolan’s.“As a prosecutor, she’s extremely competent and tenacious,” Kaplan said. “She’s very professional. How the prosecutors treat you as a person makes a difference. The judges really appreciate it up here when the defense and the prosecution treat each other respectfully. Christina is certainly someone who treats her opponents respectfully. I always felt she was above-board and straightforward. She does her job and does it competently. She’s an excellent prosecutor.”Nolan admits she sometimes has a soft spot for the victims she meets.“You do grow to care about the victims, whether you stay in touch with them or not,” Nolan said. “But you have to remember that you’re not their lawyer, you’re the lawyer for the United States. I was enforcing federal criminal laws which apply all over the country, including here in Vermont.”Jay PeakIn one of the largest financial scandals in Vermont history, Miami businessman Ariel Quiros, the owner of Jay Peak and Burke Mountain Resort in Vermont, and his partners, were charged with enticing over 800 investors to fund a new biotech plant to be built in Newport, as well as to pay millions of dollars for upgrades to the ski resorts.The money came from foreign investors being promised American citizenship under the federal EB-5 Visa program.Under that program, foreign investors who put at least $500,000 into a qualified project are entitled to green cards — permanent residency in the United States — provided the projects create a certain number of jobs.This is where the words “Ponzi scheme” come into play.After a years-long Security and Exchange Council investigation, Quiros was found to be using his investors’ money to fund his own lavish lifestyle; each new investor’s money was being used to pay off Quiros’s last lavish living expense.The Newport plant never materialized, and somehow, Quiros and his partners misused over $200 million; they were forced to surrender more than $80 million in assets to the SEC, including Jay Peak and Burke Mountain Resort.Both Quiros and his main partner, Bill Stenger, have already reached monetary settlements with federal and state regulators.And Quiros has pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering, and concealing material information. His partners are still involved in legal wrangling, but Nolan was willing to talk a bit about the case.“That one is a case that only the US Attorney’s office could handle,” she said. “There may be some aspect that could be subject to state charges, but a large, years-long complex fraud case like that is going to be a US Attorney’s Office case, if anyone’s going to charge it. I will say, I think, that we have such dogged and talented prosecutors in this office that we’re the kind of office that will tackle that kind of case. I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that every office would have the will to do that case, because it took millions and millions and millions of documents and years of investigation. It was very, very challenging. And so I have to be the kind of US attorney that says, ‘Yes, we are not going to back down from this. We are going to put the resources in.’ But it would not be possible without the prosecutors on the case who are just so talented and just so determined, and have such a strong work ethic. And of course, the law enforcement agencies that we work with, the FBI, and others, who also had the will and the talent to get that case charged. And we got a conviction.”As of last month, Quiros, who is facing up to 97 months in prison, was living in Miami. In November he went to court to ask permission to move to Puerto Rico and travel overseas for business.“The case is ongoing,” Nolan said. “This is really important. The two defendants who have not entered guilty pleas are presumed innocent still, and it’s a really important thing to emphasize. Until they’re found guilty by a jury, assuming they go to trial, or unless their case resolves in other ways, I want to emphasize that they’re entitled to the presumption of innocence — as is everybody until they’re convicted. So just because Mr Quiros entered a guilty plea does not mean those other two men are guilty of anything. We’ll have to see how the case goes. The presumption of innocence is one of the most important principles in the Constitution.”Domestic ViolenceThe pandemic appears to have increased domestic violence in Vermont, and Nolan has made a priority of holding abusers accountable. But she has chosen an unusual way of doing it: by using federal gun laws.In most domestic abuse cases, handled for the most part at the state level, the victim eventually has to confront her abuser in court; this is often a difficult and traumatic thing for the victim to do “because they’ve been controlled by the abuser for so long, because they are scared, because they just want to deal with their trauma, all kinds of different reasons,” Nolan told WCAX last year.But in the past few years, almost 40 percent of domestic violence cases have included a gun.That makes them federal cases, especially if the abusers are in possession of a gun with: a previous misdemeanor domestic violence conviction; under a restraining order; a drug user; have a prior felony; or have been found legally mentally defective. And in federal gun cases, the victim does not have to testify in court.“Nearly half of Vermont’s homicides each year occur in the domestic setting,” Nolan said. “Most domestic violence cases, by their nature, will be charged by the state prosecutors because the crime is usually the act of violence. There is no federal law per se, on that point. But where we can come in and help — and where I want us to come in and help — is where the person possesses a gun. Whether they use the gun to commit the abuse or they possessed it unlawfully outside the abuse, that can involve federal law because there are all kinds of federal prohibitions on people possessing firearms. And I want to bring those federal firearms charges to help our state prosecutors, take pressure off the victim and get better results.”Nolan is meeting with state prosecutors and police and trying to spread the word that the US Attorney’s office prioritizes these cases.Also, federal laws against cyber-stalking, and traveling to commit certain offenses across state lines, could also implicate domestic violence, Nolan said.“My pledge is, if we have the evidence, and we think we can prove it, we will do those domestic violence cases,” Nolan said. “It won’t be, it can’t be all, because we just don’t have jurisdiction overall. But we’ll do them where we can.”In 2019, Nolan’s office brought charges against five abusers. In 2020, it’s doubled that to 10.“So we’ve charged more this year, notwithstanding the challenges of the pandemic,” Nolan said. “I think it’s much harder for people to make reports because they’re more isolated in their at home with their abusers. And domestic violence is underreported anyway. So there’s been an increase this year. And that doesn’t even count the reports to the victim service providers and non-law enforcement entities. ‘Stay-at-home’ does not mean ‘stay in the crime scene.’ I worry a little bit that the isolation has exacerbated the problem somewhat based on the numbers. So it’s a big problem, and the federal government has a role to play in addressing it.”In September of this year, Nolan announced that more than $6 million in federal grant funds was coming to Vermont to support organizations that help victims of domestic violence.“The grants will help identify victims, support their recovery, and give them a chance at living the rest of their lives free from abuse,” Nolan said in a written statement when she announced the grants.Hard on DrugsThe COVID-19 pandemic may have pushed public attention away from the opioid epidemic, but Nolan has kept up the heat on the drug trade.“About 55 percent of our work is drug-related,” said Nolan. “Obviously, we have a drug crisis in Vermont. And we have an opioid epidemic. And unfortunately, we’ve got other drugs that are presenting challenges. So I’ve had to focus on that.”She discussed two federal cases that were resolved in October that address both sides of the opioid trade.One was Operation Fury Road; the other was the case against Purdue Pharma.On the illegal drug front, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies from Vermont and Massachusetts recently completed an 18-month enforcement operation, Operation Fury Road, that targeted the “guns-for-drugs” pipeline — guns from Vermont going south, drugs from southern New England going north — which has long been a problem in the communities along Interstate 91.It resulted in the prosecution of 82 defendants in federal court for charges related to drug trafficking, unlawful possession of firearms, using firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking, and other federal criminal violations.In April 2019, Nolan stood in the meeting room of the Brattleboro Police Department. Flanked by representatives of federal, state, and local law enforcement, she briefed reporters on the results of a series of drug raids in the Brattleboro area.“We are coming after those who prey on the lives of Vermonters by peddling poison and profiting from addiction,” Nolan said at the news briefing. “I promise we will be relentless.”Nolan also issued this warning: “If you are on Interstate 91 north headed for Brattleboro or St Johnsbury or anywhere else in the state with drugs, turn around and go home. You will be targets of collaborative investigations, criminal charges and stiff penalties. And, by that, I mean jail time.”But that turned out to be just a small piece of a much bigger investigation.Operation Fury Road included three law enforcement surges around Vermont during which federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies flooded into communities hit hard by the effects of the drug crisis and opioid overdose epidemic.The surges targeted drug and firearm trafficking in the Brattleboro area in April 2019; the Northeast Kingdom in November 2019; and the Rutland area in January 2020. It involved law enforcement agencies at all levels in Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.“We asked them for help stopping drugs, deadly drugs, from coming to Vermont,” Nolan said. “We asked them for help interdicting dealers before they get here. We have to help them when it comes to Vermont guns, illegally acquired, ending up in crime scenes in their cities, which happens too frequently.”During Operation Fury Road, Nolan said law enforcement seized 128 firearms and 7,511 rounds of ammunition. Of those firearms, 57 were handguns. Several firearms were assault-style rifles and short-barreled weapons which were not registered as required by the National Firearms Act. Many of the firearms had been stolen from local Vermonters, purchased illegally at Vermont gun stores, or were otherwise illegally possessed.In addition to the firearms, law enforcement also seized approximately 40,200 bags of heroin (which equates to approximately 870 grams), 141 grams of bulk heroin, 1,489 grams of cocaine base, and 78 grams of powder cocaine.Much of the heroin seized during the operation was laced with fentanyl.The opioid battle is one with many fronts, one of them being the abuse of prescription drugs.While Operation Fury Road was impressive, Nolan’s biggest success so far has been the $8 billion settlement with Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin, after her office discovered the pharmaceutical company was involved in a “kickback“ scheme designed to boost sales of the drug.“I’ve met so many people whose addiction started with OxyContin,” Nolan said.So when Owen Foster, an assistant US attorney in Nolan’s office, discovered that in 2016 Purdue Pharma paid Practice Fusion Inc, a San Francisco-based electronic health records company, to create an alert system in its software to boost Purdue’s prescription sales, Nolan knew this was something big.“Purdue paid Practice Fusion nearly a million dollars to have prompts installed in the software that the health care doctors would see while they were treating a patient; the prompt encouraged the doctors to focus more on pain,” Nolan said, “and it suggested that they select Purdue’s extended release opioids like oxycodone as treatment, even when it wasn’t medically necessary or appropriate.”Nolan said the messages were “a clinical suggestion. These prompts, or alerts, can be perfectly legal if they’re clinically based. But these were a form of influence and, I would argue, manipulation.”The manipulation was subtle, “an opioid profit generator masquerading as a clinical tool,” Nolan said.“They knew they couldn’t advertise it as a profit generator,” Nolan said. “They sort of had to masquerade it as a clinical function. But, yes, over time, certain doctors were influenced. The doctors who received the prompts prescribed extended release opioids at a higher rate than those that did not.”Foster and another attorney, Michael Drescher, spent two years on the investigation, starting in August 2018. Nolan would not talk about the specifics, but she was pleased with what their work accomplished.Earlier this year, Nolan reached a $145 million settlement with Practice Fusion to resolve claims against that company stemming from the kickback scheme.And her office’s work led a federal settlement last month, where Purdue agreed to plead guilty in a federal court in New Jersey to two counts of conspiracy to violate the federal anti-kickback statute, plus charges of conspiring to defraud the federal government and the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act. The company will pay more than $8 billion in civil penalties.“To be able to be in one of the smallest offices in the country, with comparatively few resources, and get a conviction of that company, that’s something we’re very proud of,” said Nolan.And she also hopes this case “sends a message to Big Pharma and Big Tech that we do have the determination and the talent and resources to investigate these. And we’re hoping it stops this from happening again. Remember, these are opioids that are causing addictions that sometimes end in death. You can’t do one of these prompts just based on selling your opioids, it has to be based in medicine.”When Nolan announced the resolution of the case in a televised press conference in Washington, there was some negative kickback back here at home.The state of Vermont is involved in its own litigations against Purdue Pharma and its former owners, the Sackler family.Vermont Attorney General Donovan said the settlement doesn’t sufficiently punish the Sacklers and Purdue for creating the opioid crisis.“I think one of the biggest objections I have is that the settlement allows Purdue Pharma to become a public benefit corporation,” Donovan said. “I don’t think Purdue Pharma should be spun off that way. I think it should be put out of business. We’re currently in bankruptcy court making sure money comes back to the state.”Nolan declined to discuss Donovan’s comments.“All I know is I’m proud to have a first of its kind, first in the history of the country conviction,” she said. “Nobody’s ever convicted a pharmaceutical company of having a kickback like this.”While the opioid crisis has taken a back seat to the COVID-19 crisis, Nolan said she believes that the drug trade “hasn’t abated during COVID” and that during the “lockdown” period, “overdose deaths were actually up from the previous year.”She’s right. According to the Vermont Department of Health’s weekly opioid report, “As of November 18th, there have been 118 opioid-related deaths among Vermont residents. The number of opioid deaths each month is higher than previous years.”Nolan thought that “another thing that we have to be tuned into is that the isolation, based on the numbers, could be causing people to turn to drugs even more than they were. And they’re getting them from somebody, so the dealing is still happening. We can’t take our foot off the gas even during the pandemic. You have to be as vigilant as ever about crime during this time.”In her role as the state’s top federal attorney, Nolan said the opioid crisis is something more than just a matter of violating the law.“We’re losing these precious lives to this poison and people are profiting from it,” she said. “It’s just wrong. There need to be consequences. And the message needs to be, ‘don’t come to Vermont, if that’s what you’re gonna do.’”Sexual HarrassmentIn April of this year, Nolan and Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Eric Dreiband were directed by US Attorney General Barr to oversee and coordinate the Department of Justice’s national efforts to address sexual harassment by landlords during the pandemic.It seems that landlords with tenants who can’t pay their rent have been soliciting sexual favors, instead.“This comes in the form of saying, ‘I’ll forgive your rent this month, or I’ll lessen your rent this month, or you don’t have to pay it this month if you perform these sexual favors,’” Nolan said.Besides being depraved, these requests are against the law.“There’s something called the Federal Fair Housing Act,” Nolan said. “It prohibits gender discrimination in housing, and sexual harassment is a form of that.”The Justice Department was bringing similar cases across the country before the pandemic, but reports continued to come during the pandemic.“We had an initiative to combat sexual harassment in housing and we sort of breathed new life into it during the pandemic,” Nolan said. “I was assigned to coordinate efforts amongst all US Attorney’s offices to look for and be on guard for and build cases against landlords who are using the circumstances of the pandemic for exploitative reasons. It’s such egregious, awful behavior. I mean, when everyone else was coming together, including people in housing who were doing the right thing and being as generous and caring as they could be, that some landlords continued to take advantage of tenants — and in the worst possible, humiliating and degrading way.”Nolan is helping other state’s US attorneys learn how to make the cases stick.“This is an assignment that I was eager to take on, because it is it is just disgusting behavior that also happens to violate federal law in certain circumstances,” Nolan said. “There have been cases brought, not here in Vermont but across the country during the pandemic. There have been some great settlements on behalf of victims. And so I think it’s going very well. I think the goal was to make sure people know their rights and that the US Attorney’s offices knew the parameters of the law. I don’t think we’ve reached everybody yet, but I think we’re going to keep trying to reach people. We want people in the community to know their rights, know their friends’ rights and know how to report it. We also want state and local law enforcement knowing that this implicates federal law. I think the U.S. Attorneys offices across the country are putting a strong priority on it.”The FutureFor Nolan, who has accomplished so much during her three years as Vermont’s first female US Attorney, the future as of this writing is vague.The country is transitioning to a new president and a new ruling party, and Nolan is expected to resign so the incoming president can choose his own US Attorney for Vermont.Several people I talked to for this story said they knew of Democrats within the Vermont legal community who were already polishing up their resumes. (When I asked, Donovan adamantly denied being interested.)However, as long as Nolan’s boss will not concede that he lost the election, she is in limbo where she must decline to discuss her future.“I’m doing this job the best I can, every day,” Nolan said. “It’s a big, important job. I’m overwhelmed and so honored to have this job. And so I just think about the present. And I just try to focus on doing it the best I can every single day.”She said she’s had no offers to go into private practice and has no interest in a political career at the moment.“From the day I started, it’s been the best job I’ve ever had, being the US Attorney for Vermont,” Nolan said. “I have 56 people that I’m trying to serve and do right by. I have the state of Vermont that’s looking for us to enforce the law as best we can. That’s all I think about. If you think ahead, you’re not doing justice to the job you have. So I don’t know what the future holds. I really don’t.”Just before the deadline for this story, more than two weeks after Trump lost the election, I pressed her again for comment about her future. I got this formal statement:“We have never stated anything about my future plans. That is because I’m focused entirely on the very important job at hand. The people of Vermont and the country, and those in my office, deserve nothing less than my complete dedication every day to the job I took an oath to carry out. That is what they will get. The US Attorney serves at the pleasure of the President with the advice and consent of the Senate.”Joyce Marcel is a journalist in southern Vermont. In 2017 she was named the best business magazine profile writer in the country by the Alliance of Area Business Publications. She is married to Randy Holhut, the photographer who took the photos for this story. He is also the news editor/acting operations manager of The Commons, a weekly newspaper in Brattleboro.