ST. ALBANS — Nicola Smith, the Bellows Free Academy, St. Albans paraeducator accused of sexually assaulting and exploiting a sophomore male, was arraigned Monday in Franklin County Superior Court Criminal Division.
Smith, 35, of St. Albans, was released without bail, but with numerous conditions, including no contact with the alleged victim, referred to in court records as PL.
Smith, who has no prior criminal history, has been charged with sexual assault with a victim less than 16 years, sexual exploitation – luring a child into sexual intercourse, and sexual exploitation of a minor. On the sexual assault charge she is facing a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a possible fine of $10,000.
Deputy state’s attorney John Lavoie requested that Smith be barred from having any contact with boys under the age of 16 as a condition of her release. “Sex offenders are opportunistic,” he told the court, provoking Judge Alison Arms to remind the state of the difference between accusation and established guilt.
“You referred to Ms. Smith as a sex offender,” Arms said. “These are allegations at this point.” However, Arms granted the state’s request prohibiting contact with boys under the age of 16.
Smith was also barred from sending any images over the Internet or using social media.
According to an affidavit from Det. Tim Chagnon of the Northeast Unit for Special Investigations (NUSI) Smith and PL exchanged nude photos over Snapchat.
The case came to light when Smith confessed to a fellow paraeducator, Lindsey Calano, that she had had sex with a BFA student. Calano told Principal Chris Mosca, who contacted police.
At the beginning of her interview with police, Smith admitted to communicating with a student and said the student was infatuated with her, but denied any sexual contact. She also denied having seen the student outside of school.
According to Chagnon, the alleged victim was not one of Ms. Smith’s students.
Smith admitted to having spoken with a peer about the situation. “She further advised she had told Lindsey she was going to hell for what she had done,” according to Chagnon’s affidavit.
As the interview continued, Smith admitted to a single sexual encounter with PL. It took place on the side of the road in the backseat of her car. She told police she was not certain if penetration or ejaculation had occurred.
In his interview with police, PL said he and Smith had begun talking in his wood shop class. The talking in class led to texting and using Snapchat. PL told Chagnon they began discussing sexual acts. “This included talking about sexual intercourse and her performing oral sex on him, but she didn’t really want to perform oral sex on him, but he thought she would be willing to do it,” Chagnon wrote.
PL told police intercourse had occurred during their roadside encounter lasting a couple of minutes.
“He advised he felt bad afterward because of the age difference; however he assured her he was a willing participant,” wrote Chagnon. “He advised he was willing; there was no coercion, threats or physical force involved.”
PL was three days shy of 16, the age of consent in Vermont, at the time of the alleged sexual act with Smith.
After speaking with her son and police, PL’s mother looked on his phone, finding photos of Smith in the trash folder.
“During her conversation with her son, he informed he had additional nude photographs of female students on his phone,” said Chagnon. At this point, it is not known if those photos were received from the students themselves or from other male students sharing photographs of female students. Two years ago a group of male BFA students was found to be sharing nude photos of their female peers.