ATTLEBORO — A Brockton woman charged with participating in a string of holdups, including two at North Attleboro supermarkets, was either a willing accomplice or just doing the bidding of her boyfriend.
Those opposing portraits of Valerie Proulx, 41, were presented Thursday in Attleboro District Court where, after a hearing, a judge rejected the prosecution’s request to hold her without bail under the state’s dangerousness law.
Instead, Judge Edmund Mathers set bail at $5,000 cash with GPS monitoring and an order for the woman to get substance abuse treatment and refrain from alcohol and drugs.
Mathers was persuaded by arguments by Proulx’s lawyer, Ted Koban of Attleboro, that his client needed treatment for her drug addiction and was not a threat to public safety.
Koban said Proulx had no financial resources of her own but had a son in Fall River who was attempting to find her a homeless shelter to stay in if she is released.
The hearing was conducted by video conference. Proulx was tested for COVID-19 in jail and is awaiting the results. She was not present for the hearing.
Koban said his client has lupus and other health problems in addition to drug addiction, and may be experiencing withdrawal symptoms rather than illness from the coronavirus.
Proulx and her boyfriend, Justin O’Connell, 36, of Brockton, are suspects in a string of robberies in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire. In North Attleboro, they are charged with holdups at Shaw’s at Tri-Boro Plaza on Oct. 30 and Stop & Shop on Route 1 on Nov. 12.
O’Connell, allegedly brandished a knife and robbed the stores while Proulx served as the getaway driver. He was ordered held without bail Tuesday and has a lengthy criminal record, according to prosecutors.
The robberies were fueled by the defendants’ drug habits, prosecutors say.
Koban argued that Proulx once made $60,000 a year as an Uber driver before becoming involved with O’Connell, who he said introduced her to a world of drug addiction and crime.
He said she had only minor brushes with the law in Rhode Island and was not a threat to public safety. “Her actions and Mr. O’Connell’s actions are quite different,” Koban told the judge.
While Koban played down her role, Assistant District Attorney Kendal Poirier said Proulx was an active willing participant in the holdups and even “cased” the Stop & Shop in Bellingham on Nov. 2 before O’Connell allegedly robbed a customer service clerk there.
“The assertion that Miss Proulx was an innocent bystander strains credulity,” Poirier said.
The defendants allegedly confessed to the robberies when interviewed by police, Poirier said.
Under the state’s dangerousness law, the prosecution must convince a judge that there are no lesser restrictions other than jail to keep the public safe from a defendant charged with serious crimes.