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.