Tag Archives: Franklin County Vermont

Too Little, Too Late?

Will 2018 be the session in which the Vermont senate finally takes meaningful action toward addressing sexual harassment?  We’ll see.

‘“There’s a different weight to it this year in light of all that’s been going on around us,” (Senator Tim) Ashe said of the new policies, referring to national stories of sexual harassment.’

It’s too little too late to help one young girl who, reluctantly and under oath, provided compelling testimony of her alleged sexual exploitation by then-senator Norm McAllister. The victim had the misfortune of stepping forward just a couple of years before our porcine president and the “Me too!” movement catapulted the dirty secret of sexual assault by powerful men to national attention.

We’re talking about a slip of a girl, just a teenager at the time she served as Mr. McAllister’s unofficial intern at the statehouse, who came from a low-income rural background, asking for a state senator to be held accountable for abusing her.

She relied on law enforcement and the states attorney who persuaded her to testify, to provide the credibility for her complaint that her own social inferiority denied her. Had she hailed from the hill section of St. Albans with gold-plated parentage, I rather doubt her case would have been dropped by the state’s attorney after she fibbed, out of shame and the growing realization that her behavior, not McAllister’s was on trial, about a kiss with a lad who was not her boyfriend.

She left that courtroom completely broken, and we haven’t heard from her since.

The next female who dared complain about the sexual mistreatment she received from McAllister once again sat alone in the courtroom as her own past relationships and financial hardships were used as a cudgel to reduce her credibility before the jury who accepted the argument that a decent family man and senator like McAllister simply wouldn’t do the things of which she accused him. If he had, it must have been consensual; as if any woman can actually “consent” to sexual exploitation by a man who wields the power to deprive her of heat and a place to live.

A third accuser conveniently died before the alleged assaults were brought to trial.

After it was all over but the weeping, McAllister faced conviction on only one count of procurement for the purpose of prostitution, and as far as I know has yet to be sentenced.

I have serious doubts that the procedures now in place for dealing with sexual harassment in the senate would have prevented that teenager’s secret exploitation in Montpelier; or any of the other brutalities Mr. McAllister actually discussed in recorded conversations with the other two complainants.

I suppose it’s pointless to wonder if the outcome of Mr. McAllister’s brush with justice might have been different had it taken place now; but I would urge the legislature to consider well that persons of low status usually suffer the greatest indignities, and a sexual harassment policy that is ineffective at protecting the very young and the timid
won’t be worth the paper its printed on.

McAllister brought to blushes by his own filthy words.

Well, the sordid pageant of disgraced former Franklin County senator Norm McAllister’s legal battles continued on Friday, as Judge Martin A. Maley heard a second day of arguments concerning Mr. McAllister’s request to reverse his plea deal on sex crime charges. Mr. McAllister has said he was coerced by the defense team into accepting the plea deal, but testimony would seem to suggest that, after hearing the evidence against him, his son Heath first  urged him to accept any plea deal that was offered, then changed his mind much later after the plea commitment had been made.

I had a prior obligation that prevented me from attending yesterday’s proceedings, but the St. Albans Messenger bravely provided an outstanding account of all that was said and heard. It bears reading for the graphic lesson it provides on the sheer brutality of this kind of sexual exploitation, as well as insight into the rationalizations Mr. McAllister adopted for his behavior.

That the good people of my county repeatedly sent the perpetrator to the legislature, even while all of this was going on, makes it that much more disturbing.

Unfortunately, a paywall prevents me from sharing the Messenger story, so I am linking to a Seven Days piece instead.

The fact that Mr. McAllister at first accepted, then sought to overturn his arguably generous plea deal, is further proof that he still has not fully accepted his wrongdoing.

Unlike the little girl whose case against McAllister was dropped when she came unravelled at the end of four hours of grilling on the stand, the victim in this case was not forced to testify.

On that occasion last June, Mr. McAllister was allowed to sit undisturbed in the gallery without having to say a word or meet the appraising gaze of the curious, as the most graphic aspects of that victim’s testimony were haltingly and painfully recounted, mortifying the young woman and rendering her easy prey for defense tactics.

This time, Mr. McAllister was forced to listen to a recording of his own filthy admissions of forced sexual conduct with the victim while the entire courtroom heard them as well.

According to the Messenger story, members of the public listened with downcast eyes, some weeping for the indignity that was so painful to hear. McAllister for his part just sat there, red in the face.

The defense has been given one week to submit closing arguments, and the prosecution, another week for response. After that, Judge Maley will render a decision as to whether or not Mr. McAllister’s plea deal will remain in effect.

Mr. McAllister and his son had better hope they lose this case because a full trial on the evidence holds not just the threat of further humiliation, but a possible sentence of up to life in prison.

Norm McAllister faces another accuser in January

The New Year is quickly closing in on us. While we are all preoccupied with what national horrors January 20 will usher in, Franklin County women may want to take note that the second trial of accused sexual predator and former state senator Norm McAllister is scheduled for the week of January 9, 2017. The pretrial conference and jury selection are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday of that week, and the actual trial begins on Wednesday, January 11 at 8:30 AM at the Franklin County Courthouse on Lake St. in St. Albans.

I plan to be there in symbolic support of the three alleged victims, even though only one of those victims’ complaints will be heard that week. I hope many more local women will join me there.

The first trial, which took place last fall, turned out to be no more than an exercise in humiliation for the young woman complainant. In the courtroom, men significantly outnumbered women, and the front rows of the gallery were lined with male members of the press and the defendant’s allies. It’s funny how that happens.

So the victim was confronted foremost with a throng of curious but indifferent male faces as she attempted to summon memories of the most intimate and embarrassing details of the attacks.  The accused, on the other hand, sat facing front and was never required to answer a single question.

I described the experience in great detail on GMD in the hope that more women would feel compelled to fill those front seats at the next trial to give the victim a little moral support.

The third victim has since passed away in circumstances that have not been shared. She was the mother-in-law of the victim who will be testifying in January.

Like so many victims of unspeakable assaults and sex trafficking, these are women who were already challenged by poverty and a total lack of alternatives. Victims such as these do not tend to have confident and articulate friends who are likely to show up in a courtroom to demonstrate their support.  An unpleasant courtroom experience is therefore made even more lonely and punishing for them.

It is no wonder that the young woman who testified at the last trial crumbled under pressure from a relentless attorney skilled at targeting her weaknesses. We owe these women our gratitude for their courage and sacrifice in bringing these crimes to trial. It may seems a thankless job, but for every woman who does step forward to charge her attacker, there are dozens who simply bottle up the nightmare inside them, so that their tormenter remains free to attack again.

Was justice served in the first McAllister trial? I don’t think so, and many others agree; but that is faint comfort for the young woman who was returned to the blunt world from which she had emerged, far worse for the wear and without the benefit of closure.

So, if you, like me, feel that sexual assault against one woman is a crime against all women; and sexual assault committed by a man of stature and responsibility against a weak and vulnerable woman is particularly repugnant; perhaps you will think about showing up and wearing a teal-colored ribbon to show your support for victims of sexual violence.

The Unshameable Norm McAllister

Accused child exploiter, accused rapist, accused sex trafficker, and suspended senator, Norm McAllister of Highgate today filed his petition for reelection.

Since Franklin County now has three Republicans competing to take on the Dems for the two available seats, members of that erstwhile ‘conservative’ party will be subjected to what will most likely be a pretty awkward  experience even as McAllister faces his dates in court on June 13 through 16th.

The other entries are sitting senator and St. Albans resident Dustin Degree, and Rep. Carolyn Branigan (Georgia).

I have every confidence that Branagan and Degree will prevail in that primary race because I have met precious few Republicans who have any use for McAllister at this point.

His was a violation of community standards that crossed all political boundaries.

Nevertheless, I am left in utter disbelief that there were enough Franklin County residents (one hundred) willing to sign his petition in order to get him on the ballot.

There is something to be said for assuming someone is innocent until proven guilty of a crime in a court of law, but that is an irrelevant technicality when it comes to assessing McAllister’s qualification to represent the people of Franklin County in the state senate. Plenty of guilty men have prevailed in a court of law.

The predatory acts to which he has confessed in conversation should be sufficient to convince any Franklin County voter that he cannot represent our best interests. and is therefor disqualified.

His successful petition to get on the ballot suggests that we, as a county, have a lot of work to do to shine a bright light on the underlying culture that has apparently enabled his prathological disrespect for women. That at least 100 Franklin County residents still think he is fit to be our senator makes his behavior not just a one-off anomaly, but part of a pattern of tolerance for abuse that must lie hidden in pockets of the community.

For that reason, I sincerely hope we will be afforded an opportunity to put questions directly to the candidates in a public forum.

I feel more than a little sympathy for Ms. Branagan who would presumably have to sit on a stage with McAllister for such a forum; and even for Dustin Degree, whom McAllister seems determined to compromise by association:

“We practically lived together through the campaign cycle,” McAllister said. “He knows more than what a lot of people do. He was with me.”

It’s an unholy local mess, on top of the unholy mess that Trump represents at the national level.
By November, a lot of Franklin County Republicans may have joined the millions across the nation demanding a different party option.

McAllister crashes FC Legislative Breakfast

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As the Senate grapples with its ethics bill, one man who is untroubled by that process is suspended senator Norm McAllister (R)who has apparently not gotten the memo that his ministrations are no longer wanted by Franklin County constituents.

Yesterday’s St. Albans Messenger carried a picture of McAllister seated, arms defiantly crossed, next to Rep. Dan Connor (D) of Fairfield at Monday’s legislative breakfast in Swanton.

I haven’t yet seen the Channel 16 coverage of the breakfast, but am told by a reliable source that Mr. McAllister actually tried to chair the meeting before Rep. Kathy Keenan (D) reminded him of his status.

There doesn’t appear to be any rule as to who gets to sit at the Big Boy table; I suppose even a constituent with chutzpah could take a seat.  Apart from Kathy Keenan’s intervention, I understand no one said anything about the elephant in the room, but photos in the Messenger show a bunch of distinctly unsmiling Republican representatives.

McAllister may be many things, but self-aware isn’t one of them.