ST. ALBANS CITY — Sen. Norm McAllister’s attorneys argued for the welfare records of a woman he allegedly sexually assaulted in a motion hearing Monday afternoon.
Messenger policy protects the identities of alleged victims of sexual assault.
McAllister’s attorneys, David Williams and Brooks McArthur, subpoenaed the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in July, seeking “a copy of any and all information” regarding benefits for which the woman in question had applied, “including but not limited to any applications, approval and denial letters, and amounts of benefits to date.”
They subpoenaed the Department of Corrections (DOC) shortly thereafter, seeking copies of any and all information related to the woman’s husband’s compliance with his conditions of release during the time she — and possibly he — resided on McAllister’s property.
The woman alleged McAllister repeatedly sexually assaulted her in place of charging rent during the time she lived on his property, and that her pregnancy ended the assaults. She said in her civil suit against McAllister that the trailer in which she lived was “in an extreme state of disrepair” when she moved in — rotten floors, non-functioning plumbing, broken windows, insufficient heating and water and virtually no insulation.
McAllister’s attorneys told Judge Martin A. Maley in Franklin County Superior Court yesterday that these DCF and DOC files will speak to the woman’s character.
If she is the sort of person who would commit welfare fraud, Williams said, “I think the jury would like to hear about that.”
Maley returned that the jury might like to, but the question was whether they deserved to.
Williams said the woman claimed she and her husband invested $10,000 in repairing the “dilapidated” trailer in an eviction counterclaim. Williams said she had $18,000 in savings with her husband, according to her husband’s testimony in the eviction case, when they began renovating the trailer, and that the couple made an additional $60,000-70,000 in subsequent years, also according to her husband’s testimony. The husband claimed the improvements cost upwards of $100,000.
Williams also said the defense seeks GPS records from the DOC “to the extent they actually exist” to prove that the woman lied about when her husband lived with her in that trailer, violating his conditions of release.
“These will prove without any doubt that [the woman] is a liar, working to commit fraud,” Williams told the judge.
Maley clarified that the trailer is not directly at issue in the state’s case against McAllister. The woman has filed a separate civil suit against McAllister, seeking damages from the alleged assaults and “breach of warranty” for the condition of the trailer.
Maley struggled to hone in on the relevance of these records to the case at hand, to the point at which he asked Williams why he kept referring to the trailer as “dilapidated.”
“Because it was dilapidated,” Williams said, mocking the woman’s description.
“You remember Abbott and Costello, ‘Who’s on First?’” Maley asked him. “That’s our conversation right now.”
Legal representatives for DCF and the DOC argued against the defense’s requests, saying to compile the records would be burdensome, and that to publicize the alleged victim’s welfare status would attach an additional social stigma to the woman.
The prosecution, represented by deputy state’s attorneys Diane Wheeler and John Lavoie, suggested the court grant the defense’s request. “I can say with confidence if we don’t give it to them, we’ll go through this again,” Lavoie said. “Statutory privilege will always fall to the constitutional concerns of the defendant.”
Lavoie said it was not a secret that the woman received welfare benefits. “The horse is out of the barn, across the field and down the river,” he said.
All the parties agreed the release of DCF case notes might be sufficient.
Maley took the issue under advisement. He said he expected to issue a written decision within days.
A status conference is tentatively set for late October. The defense still needs to complete its deposition of the woman, which was interrupted due to “objections to the scope of my questions as to whether she’d ever paid rent,” Williams said.
Even the trial’s dates are up in the air. Scheduling conflicts have rendered the tentative December date unlikely, due in part to the prosecution’s argument that the case should be “draw ‘n’ go,” the trial immediately following a jury drawing to ensure an unbiased jury.
Separate charges against McAllister were dropped in a prior case involving another alleged sexual assault victim. That trial lasted only a day before state prosecutors dropped the charges, officially because the lead witness, on whom the case depended, lied under oath about a tangential issue.