Tag Archives: norm mcallister

McAllister to stand trial (again) for sexual assault

Good news for those of us who felt Mr. McAllister’s plea deal cheated his constituents of the opportunity to hear all the details of the case, including Mr. McAllister’s defense, in open court.

He had a good thing in that plea deal, which spared him exposure to a life sentence; but now that he has chosen to withdraw from the deal, all bets are off.

It appears from news reports that McAllister’s second thoughts on the plea deal were largely due to a concern to preserve his farm from vulnerability in an upcoming civil case, filed by one of his victims. He claims that he was unaware, at the time of accepting the plea deal, that it would represent a tacit admission of guilt and could jeopardize his defense in that pending civil suit.

The need to prepare a second time for trial and to screen a second jury is a burden on the county; the county for which he served as an unyielding fiscal and social conservative voice for a number of years. Not so concerned with the people’s purse now, are we Mr. McAllister?

This of course does not address the repeated pretrial stress on the victim; still awaiting her day in court.

A trial date has not yet been announced; but once again, I sincerely hope that the women of Franklin County turn out to support the victim.

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.

Updated: McAllister- “In Vermont, women are the ‘Holy Grail’”

Update: (Feb. 6 )-  Friday, February 24 has been set as the date for continuation of the hearing on Mr. McAllister’s motion to reverse his plea deal.  Not only is Mr. McAllister likely to return to the stand for further testimony, but his son Heath may be called as well.   Popcorn optional.  ________________________________________________________________

On Friday, I took a break from the antics of our “Command-Her in Chief” to attend the courtroom speaking debut of Norm McAllister,  when he took the stand in defense  of his motion to rewind the plea deal he had earlier agreed to on the occasion of his second sex crime trial.

As you probably know, Mr. McAllister (formerly Franklin County Senator McAllister) took that plea deal last month after the court had devoted an entire day to seating a jury.

It seemed as if we were destined never to hear directly from the accused.

The plea deal should have been very attractive to Mr. McAllister, as it dropped some of the charges against him, thus reducing the maximum amount of jail time he would serve from life to seven years. Considering the weight of recorded evidence with which the prosecution was fully armed, no one was surprised that he seemed to accept the plea deal pretty willingly.

McAllister, 65, signed an agreement and pleaded no contest to two counts of prohibited acts and one count of lewd and lascivious conduct. In return, prosecutors agreed to drop the most serious felony, a charge of sexual assault, which carried a potential life sentence.

The very next morning Mr. McAllister surprised his own attorneys, and pretty much everyone else, by expressing ‘buyer’s remorse’ to NBC’s Stewart Ledbetter and suggesting he might retract his plea.

Friday’s hearing was scheduled to entertain arguments concerning the merit of McAllister’s request to retract.

His principle argument is that the attorneys who represented him, both in his earlier sexual assault trial and in the case for which he had taken the plea deal, had coerced him into accepting the deal. He has fired those attorneys (Brooks McArthur and David Williams), replacing them with his current representation (Bob Katims.)

Under oath, Mr. McAllister told the court that McArthur and Williams “brow beat” him into
accepting the plea deal; that they refused to let him consult with his son before making the decision; and that they had called him ‘stupid’ and ‘retarded’ for resisting and brought him to tears. He further asserted that they had told him that Vermont law was unfairly biased in favor of women, giving him the impression that he had no choice but to accept the deal right then and there.

He also maintained that the implications of the plea deal had never been properly explained to him and he had no idea that acceptance of the plea deal and the conditions of sex offender treatment attached to it was a tacit confession to the reduced charges.

It was quite a story. Once again, Mr. McAllister played the victim as he attempted to deflect blame to his lawyers .

Brooks McArthur, who was called to the stand after the break, refuted the idea that McAllister had been coerced, reading from the record to establish that Mr. McAllister had been questioned both by his attorneys and by Judge Martin Maley about his understanding and acceptance of the plea deal. He emphatically denied calling Mr. McAllister ‘retarded’ and making statements about gender bias in the Vermont court system, pointing to Mr. McAllister’s own assertion to Seven Days back in October 2015:

“…You’re screwed, because in this state, women are considered the Holy Grail,” McAllister told Seven Days. “Women don’t lie. I’ve had landlords come up to me and say, ‘You know, this is going to scare us, because if you rent to a single woman, you’ve got to have witnesses.’ There’s something wrong with our system. It’s great that nobody is above the law. But how does that work when you get accused of something you didn’t do? There’s a presumption that you must have because you’re a man.”

From Mr. McAllister’s testimony, it’s pretty easy to surmise that he was fully accepting of the plea deal while he was still in court; but, when he went home and was confronted by his son about the arrangement, he had a change of heart.

Day two of the hearing, in which Mr. Williams will be called upon to testify, has yet to be scheduled, but Mr. McAllister’s credibility has already been dealt a considerable blow. I don’t know about you, but I can’t see Mr. McAllister’s attorneys being so incautious as to call him “retarded” or opine that he couldn’t get a fair trial in Vermont because he is a man!

I am of two minds about whether or not I’d like to see Mr. McAllister’s plea deal reversed.

On the one hand, given Friday’s preview of his performance on the stand, I would sincerely love to hear him answer questions directly related to the charges against him. On the other, having witnessed how poorly the system served the young girl who was compelled to  relive humiliating details of her complaint in the first case, I do not wish this female victim any more exposure and pain than absolutely necessary in order to ensure that one sexual predator will never hurt another woman again.

Ethics, anyone?

Ethics in elected office has been a big topic of discussion since the latter part of the 2016 presidential campaign.

The highest profile issues are those surrounding President-Elect Trump, who still hasn’t shared his taxes with the public, and apparently doesn’t intend to distance himself from his business holdings; and from his roster of administration appointments in which billionaire tycoons and former lobbyists figure heavily.

Apparently Republicans aren’t interested in questioning anybody’s ethics but those of Democrats.

Emboldened by majorities in the House and Senate, as well as control of the Oval Office, Congressional Republicans attempted to castrate the independent Office of Congressional Ethics. That effort was scrapped only twenty-four hours later, when news of the sly maneuver reached the greater constituency and all hell broke loose.

Still, it was a reminder to me to check on the progress of Vermont’s own belated attempt to establish ethics rules in the wake of the sensational Norm McAllister sexual assault scandal.

Efforts to establish a State Ethics Panel were allowed to languish and die before summer recess. In a measure of progress, though, the Senate’s own version, propelled forward by the McAllister debacle, does establish certain new disclosure guidelines for senators.
With the 2017 winter session comes new hope that a State Ethics Commission, which already has broad support in the Senate, will finally obtain House approval.  It’s far from all we might wish for, but it’s better than nothing.

Here in Franklin County, the salacious topic of Norm McAllister’s unwholesome appetites simply refuses to go away. Shortly after a jury was selected to hear the case of the second of his three alleged victims, it was announced that Mr. McAllister had copped a plea to avoid a trial and was facing up to seven years in the sentencing phase, but would avoid potential penalties (up to life in prison) for the most serious charges.

That was Tuesday. Today came the news that McAllister had told WPTZ that he “might” change his mind.

While I would relish the opportunity to finally hear McAllister being examined on a witness stand, I can’t imagine that the continued suspense provides anything but further suffering for his victims.

Who knows whether he will really change his plea? This is the same guy who has essentially both admitted to and denied his guilt in the assorted pre-trial depositions.

In Post-Truth America I suppose we shouldn’t be at all surprised.

 

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.

What and when they knew: the shadow over Degree and Parent

Election day is nearing and Franklin County voters must decide whether or not it is important for them to have representatives in Montpelier who are at least minimally aware of potentially dangerous or compromising situations close at hand.

So far, we have not had the privilege of hearing substantive accounts from either Dustin Degree or Corey Parent of their day-to-day interactions with Norm McAllister and his teenaged “intern.”

It is a troubling gap.

Mr. Degree appears to have been an intimate of Mr. McAllister, who has himself implied that Mr. Degree knows far more about him and the situation with the teenager than anyone else; and Corey Parent has said in a sworn deposition that he often drove the teenager to and from Montpelier. Furthermore, the “intern” herself has testified that she devoted time to working both for Mr. McAllister’s and Mr. Degree’s election.

While no one would accuse either Degree or Parent of being complicit with Mr. McAllister’s alleged crimes, to accept that they were wholly unaware of the unhealthy relationship is to also accept that both gentlemen are singularly lacking in curiosity and intuition; two things that would seem fairly important to the offices that they currently hold.

Their inability in such close proximity to appreciate the real danger to the young girl (or even a hint of impropriety) represents a failure by Degree, at the very least, and possibly Parent as well, to uphold the sworn obligation to protect their constituents.

If I were a Franklin County Republican, I would be taking a second look at the Democrats in this election cycle, because all of the incumbent Republicans must share some guilt for allowing McAllister to run rampant over their party and failing to protect the best interests of the county.

Primary Flashback and Franklin County Frolics

A belated congratulations are due to GMD’s own Mike McCarthy, who now, officially joins Rep. Kathy Keenan as our excellent  Democratic candidates for the Vermont House from St. Albans City.  Mike has already served a term as St. Albans’ House Rep. so we look forward to having him back again.

The heat knocked me out for the past week or so, but I’ve recovered enough to want to comment on the outcome of the primary.

Although I wasn’t particularly active in the primary, I could not be more pleased with the outcome. Despite the pain we all feel at the national spectacle, I think we have much to be grateful for, here at home.

Sue Minter and Dave Zuckerman comprise a very strong Democratic ticket. I look forward to the debates with relish!

I was also pleased to learn that despite the early endorsement pass by the VCV, Philip Baruth will be defending his seat against the Republican challengers once again.

Returning to Franklin County, it was, I think, a relief for the entire county that disgraced senator Norm McAllister went down in defeat. We can now refer to him summarily as ‘disgraced ex-senator’ Norm McAllister…and doesn’t that feel good.

Nevertheless, roughly 700 Franklin County voters actually endorsed candidate McAllister, leaving one to ponder whether his family is exceptionally large, or there is a significant population out there with disturbing attitudes toward women.

None could have been more relieved with the primary results than Franklin County Republicans, who would have not found it a pleasant experience to campaign on the same ticket with a virtual pariah

Stepping into the breech for Republicans was Representative Carolyn Branagan, who will join Dustin Degree in competition against our two outstanding Democratic candidates for senate, former Senator Sara Kittell and clean lake activist, Denise Smith.

It goes without saying that I support Sara and Denise without reservation, but I have to say that Brannagan would be a strong third choice. She’s a good moderate representative for her district and has a pretty good environmental voting record.

Incredibly, Branagan got some grief from McAllister and some of his supporters for having had the temerity to offer herself as a candidate in the scorched aftermath of McAllister’s untimely departure. No one expected him to run again, given that he was facing numerous charges for crimes against women; but run he did, submitting his petition in the last minute of the eleventh hour, when no one had a chance to discover that it did not satisfy the minimum of the law before time ran out on a challenge. That didn’t stop him from attacking, in a parting shot, the only woman on Franklin County’s Republican senate ticket

So now we have an interesting race shaping up for two senate seats in Franklin County: two strong Democratic women, one respected Republican woman…and Dustin Degree.

It does seem fitting that, for his sins, McAllister will definitely see a woman he probably loathes in his senatorial seat….no matter which woman that ends up being.

Of course, popular wisdom around here probably has Degree holding onto his seat, but I beg to differ. Branagan came in a strong second to Degree in the primary; and I think that even Republicans may be ready for a little more estrogen in the Franklin County delegation.

And there are those nagging, unanswered questions about who-knew-what-when.

In what could only be imagined as an attempt to drag Degree under the bus along with him, thus improving his own chances in the primary, McAllister himself hinted broadly that Degree knew more about him (and presumably, the ‘intern’) than anyone else.

We may never learn the whole story about the intern, but McAllister’s statement means Degree is in for some increased scrutiny.

Degree and McAllister campaigned almost in tandem in the past two election cycles. They passed two years as seatmates in the senate. The intern maintains that she helped on their shared campaign.

It is difficult to believe that Degree never visited the apartment where McAllister shared a bedroom with the intern, and that he never observed how very young and fragile she looked next to the sexagenarian farmer who presumably bossed her around at the statehouse.

Also to be questioned is Mike McCarthy’s House opponent Cory Parent, who gave the teenaged intern rides back to Franklin County from the statehouse. He seems to have been another close intimate of McAllister’s. One would think the relationship between McAllister and the intern could not have been entirely unobserved by Parent and Degree.

So, it should be interesting over the next couple of months. I sincerely hope that whoever conducts the debates does not shy away from the McAllister question. The voters deserve some answers before they cast their ballots again.

Norm McAllister in the dock again. Son opens mouth, inserts foot.

Suspended Senator Norm McAllister is once again scheduled to answer charges of sexual assault and trafficking beginning on August 10 in the Franklin County Courthouse.

There is much fault that could be found with the way in which Mr. McAllister’s first trial was prosecuted, including the fact that the victim was forced to testify for many hours before the curious eyes of the press, while Mr. McAllister was allowed to sit the whole thing out without saying a word or even glancing at the assembly. It must be hoped that justice will be better served in the upcoming trial.

Norm Mcallister’s son Heath McAllister has, in the meantime, given us ample fodder for discussion with his comments to the media this week.

Defending his father, Heath is quoted as saying

“You’d have to believe he went from a loving husband of 43 years to some kind of animal…”

I agree that it is unlikely that Norm McAllister woke up one day at the age of 60+ and became a serial abuser. When an old man is discovered to be engaging in such behavior, it is almost certain that the pattern of abuse began many years earlier, and that there are other victims who simply have never come forward.

Heath McAllister went on to say that people are making too much of the extreme youth of the alleged victim.

“That’s not a big deal. You want to be disgusted that she was 19 and he was 63, knock yourself for a loop,”

Even if we accept his version of the story, in which she was 19 (not fifteen or sixteen, as she alleges) when the sexual contact began; according to her testimony, she weighed only 85 pounds, which is why he could easily pick her up and sling her over his shoulder like a bag of grain. The idea that she could “consent” to the relationship is outrageous. Now, at twenty-one, she is still a wee slip of a pretty girl, unlikely to consent to being violated by a portly, balding old man.

Apparently Mr. Heath McAllister sees nothing wrong with this picture.

That speaks volumes about the culture in the family, perhaps even in the McAllisters’ circle of friends.

The coup-de-grace, though, is this final admission:

“Did my dad talk like a pig? Sure. I don’t know how many men — what the hell, I’m in the list,” he said. “There’s been moments where if you took what I said out of context, it would sound horrible.”

The culture of misogyny and exploitation hangs heavy in those words. He thinks this is perfectly normal and acceptable.

Locking the perpetrator of such crimes away from vulnerable populations is only part of the remedy for sexual abuse; and, statistically, our society has a poor record of accomplishing even that much.

The real need is to address the underlying culture that enables such behaviors, interrupting the pattern before it takes hold among a broader community of family and friends. The simple reality is that women and girls raised in a culture of exploitation and abuse seldom seek or receive help. Captive to the culture of their tormenters, they simply accept that this is what they must survive.

The women who have spoken out about their experiences with Mr. McAllister deserve our respect and the same indulgence we allow to wartime victims of PTSD.

It is the very least that we can do.

Norm McAllister assaults the system…and gets away with it…again.

So, accused rapist/sex trafficker Norm McAllister will remain on the Republican primary ballot for senator even though his petition has been found to be deficient.  I hear fellow Republican candidate Carolyn Branagan’s cry of indignation and I share it!

Mr McAllister must be some sort of human detector for weaknesses in Vermont’s judiciary and legislative systems.

So far, he has succeeded in exploiting no less than five significant failures, and he hasn’t even come to trial yet to face accusations made by two more women.

1) The lack of meaningful protections for the vulnerable in the private workplace.

2) An apparent culture of “don’t ask; don’t tell” in the statehouse, where the extreme youth
of Mr. McAllister’s omnipresent ‘intern’ should have raised concerns and led to timely interventions.

3) The lack of a meaningful ethics policy governing legislators.

4) The lack of adequate provision in court for the PTSD disability common to victims of sexual abuse.

5) The lack of effective vetting practices to validate candidate petitions.

I’m sure there are more, but these spring most quickly to mind. Do not look for a grasp of reality anytime soon from this man because both Franklin County and the state of Vermont have yet to demonstrate any ability to bring his arrogance and his appetites to heel.

Update: Is this what scuttled the McAllister trial?

As I have already said elsewhere, I sat in disbelief last Wednesday as the Prosecution dropped the charges of multiple sexual assaults against suspended senator Norm McAllister.  This, after putting the fragile victim through something like five hours of clearly painful and humiliating public testimony while the accused, seated with his back to the curious crowd, was spared the need for any account of himself.

I was further dismayed to see so little concern over the decision expressed by conventional media. Emphasis seemed to rest on the Defense’s unchallenged assertion that McAllister had been “vindicated.” Attorneys for the two sides shook hands amicably and left the courtroom without really explaining what had happened.

The victim was simply abandoned to the tender mercies of public speculation.

It was therefore more than a little heartening to finally hear a piece on VPR this afternoon that showed more empathy for the victim than was exhibited in the immediate aftermath of the aborted trial.

From VPR, we learned that the Prosecution had made the decision to drop the case after the Defense pointed to something that the victim “lied” about in her testimony. We are told that the victim felt question asked was “too personal” and, in any case,  irrelevant to the case; but the prosecutor, nevertheless, decided to withdraw the charges when the victim admitted that she hadn’t answered truthfully..

I think I might know what this is all about and it really was a very poor reason to abandon the case. If I am mistaken, I would really like someone to set me straight.

Toward the close of the cross-examination, she was clearly reaching the end of her emotional tether.  Perhaps realizing she was that close to breaking, the Defense began to pressure her about physical evidence of the crime on her body, and in rapid succession she said, “no,no, no” to every intimate question that was asked.  Her body language indicated to me that they had hit a wall of resistance to any further indignity.  She’d had enough.

The other possibility that occurs to me is that the Defense succeeded in persuading the Prosecution that they could dispute a detail of the first attack as she described it, by referencing her Facebook page.

In her testimony, the victim said that her ponytail had been dyed purple at the time of the first attack. At the break, I overheard the Defense, first discussing among themselves; then,with the Prosecution, that this was “impossible” because photos on her Facebook page showed her with a purple ponytail a year later but not in any of the photos on her Facebook page that date to the time of the first attack.

Having had a teenager, I know, as probably most people do, that these colors can be applied rather spontaneously and disappear or are rinsed away rather easily. She could very well have had a purple ponytail at the time of the first attack too, but not been photographed with it.

It is, in any case, the kind of detail that could easily become confused in the memory of a girl suffering the mental anguish of rape and trying to suppress that memory in order to keep it secret.

If this is what caused the Prosecution to drop the charges, it is a pretty poor reason.

Either way, the inconsistencies in her testimony could have easily been explained by the Prosecution as consistent with PTSD from sexual abuse.