McAllister talks trial, primary race

Highgate native speaks about life after allegations

By Elaine Ezerins

Staff Writer

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ST. ALBANS — State Sen. Norm McAllister, 64, accused of sexually assaulting one woman and extorting sex from a second, alleges that the charges levied against him are part of a “scam.”

McAllister, running for his third term in the Senate despite being suspended by his peers in January, maintains his innocence and says the news media have unfairly ruined his reputation.

In May of last year, McAllister was arrested on charges of sexual assault and prohibited acts involving three women. The first of two trials, concerning one charge of sexual assault, ended mid-June when prosecutors dismissed the case after one day of testimony.

The second case, set to begin on Aug 10, the day after the state primary, concerns allegations that McAllister extorted unwanted sex from a second woman and solicited sex from a third, who has since died.

McAllister said, “The state chose to drop [the first] case because they knew after just the first half a day what it was going to turn into.”

“In my opinion, this whole thing has turned into a political…” McAllister trailed off. “You know, it started with some people running a scam on me and now it’s turned into a whole political thing where people have just piled it on.”

When asked about what the scam entailed, McAllister said he’s not supposed to talk about it. “But this next case, people will see,” he said.

“I can’t even tell you what I was investigating,” he said. “But it’s going to come out that I was the only one doing it. I was the only one doing it and I actually got called in by the administration and… I’m not going to talk about it.”

“There’s a reason why they don’t want me back in Montpelier,” McAllister continued, “because I was rocking the boat hard and they didn’t like it. That’s what you do as a senator. That’s your job. [It’s] to find out what the hell is going on and where is our money going. Nobody asks. Nobody checks on where the money goes.”

“Norm McAllister’s suggestion that the Shumlin administration is linked to these charges is ludicrous,” said Sue Allen, a spokesperson for the administration. “This was a Vermont State Police investigation following protocols that are well established.”

McAllister offered his views on the first trial, criticizing the alleged victim’s testimony and the news media, including the Messenger, for only giving one side of the story.

He said the Messenger wrote some trashy stuff about him, filled with false information and based on opinion. “They’ve done a terrific job of ruining my reputation. I’ve never done…” McAllister trailed off. “And you saw how long the first case lasted, half a day.”

The state dismissed the case after the first day of testimony because the woman admitted to lying on the stand about a tangential matter, not kissing a boy when she had.

Speaking of the victim, McAllister said the “little girl’s” stories “weren’t even close.”

“Nobody would be that far off, if they were telling the truth,” McAllister said. “And she was trying to pretend she didn’t know some of these people that she had been in my house [with], in the kitchen talking to them, joking with them. She was trying to pretend she didn’t know them. She was acting, but [the Messenger] bought into it.”

During the trial, McAllister said he saw her “[cock] back and put her foot up on the podium at one time. That’s not a person that’s really intimidated. And she was being very sarcastic to the guy who was asking her questions. And he was being very pleasant to her… or as pleasant as he could be.”

“Had we gone on with the case, everyone would have seen what was exactly going on,” McAllister said. “I mean, if anybody was naive enough to think [the case was thrown out] because she lied about kissing a guy… I mean, who gives a crap. That was nothing.”

“She did lie under oath,” he said. “That’s the only thing she admitted to.”

McAllister alleged that the woman was caught in her lie because of the presence of someone on the witness list. According to McAllister, the woman thought the man was in Colorado, so when she saw him in the court room, “she knew she was busted… that’s a fact.”

“We had a whole line of witnesses that were going to come,” McAllister said, and he wanted them to testify because then “people [would] see that [the alleged victims] were lying, but we never got to get that far.”

McAllister said the Messenger pretended that the first trial “was all about someone being traumatized,” and therefore, couldn’t keep their facts straight, “instead of just saying, “Well if you’re lying, its very hard to keep remembering what your lies were.”

McAllister expressed his anger and frustration over the state prosecuting him for alleged actions against a woman with a criminal history. “Well I think I can talk about the one who died,” he said. “She was a career criminal. Look her up. Look her name up. Google it up. From the time she was a teenager, she’s a career criminal. She was in trouble all the time, served time for federal drug charges, was out on parole.”

The woman McAllister referred to pled guilty in 2010 to two federal charges: heroin distribution and conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine. She was sentenced to 28 months and five years supervision following her release. In March 2012, her sentence was reduced to time served and her supervision was reduced to 42 months.

After her passing, the woman’s family was open about her struggles with mental illness and drug addiction. On a Gofundme page created to raise money for her funeral, they wrote that she “was born one of eight children in a very poor, broken family plagued with mental illness, drugs, alcohol, and/or physical abuse.  Her life was a constant struggle with mental illness, alcohol addiction, drug addiction, depression, suicide attempts and mental hospitalizations.  [She] was never able to get the help she so desperately needed.”

“This was the Mother Teresa that they’re going after me about?” McAllister questioned, “that they’re impugning my reputation? This woman runs scams on everybody.”

He said people are not going to see those details in the Messenger because it has a “left bend” to it.

“I’ve been crapped on and I have done nothing,” McAllister said. “It’s going to show but it’s going to happen after the primary,” because jury selection for the second trial falls on the state primary.

“Do you think that was an accident?” McAllister questioned. “Especially this first case, we could’ve done it in March but the prosecution said no, we need to move it out to the summer. And now they’re talking about they want to move it later in the fall.”

“Tell you the truth,” he said, “I think there are many people that are very worried that I might be even successful [in the election] because of the people that know me in the county.”

When asked how the campaign was going, McAllister said it’s kind of slow because he didn’t raise any money this time around.

“I didn’t feel comfortable asking anybody because of the awful things going on with me,” he said, and because he didn’t think people would want to until they heard the results of the trial.

In the meantime, he’s recycled his signs from years past and put them out at a few places. “I’ve been more of just going out talking people and explaining my case,” McAllister said. “I’m still me.”

“It’s going to be very much what people believe,” he said. “We live in a country where we’re all… innocent until proven guilty. I’ve been tried by this paper and the news media.”

“Unfortunately, the politics that’s played into this, the news media has sensationalized it way beyond what it should have been and so if they set out, if that was their goal,” McAllister said, “then they’re successful. They’re good. It won’t matter whether I’m found innocent or not. They’ve found me guilty and they have kept pushing it out there.

“Last year, when I went back to serve, that was pretty tough going back, knowing you were going to get suspended because they had prejudged you.”

“I was guilty of nothing and our system, with the checks and balances, says you’re not to be treated like you’re guilty if you didn’t [do something],” McAllister said. “You have to be found guilty before you’re guilty of something. Otherwise we would be just like Russia.”

McAllister said with his situation, he feels like he’s guilty unless he can prove he didn’t sexually assault those women, “not the other way around… Was that fair?”

But despite all this, McAllister said he has faith that the system will work and his name will be cleared. He also has faith in the people of Franklin County and hopes they will be able to distinguish fact from false allegations.

“I’m leaving it in the hands of the people in Franklin County,” he said. “I can’t change their minds. If they want to go by what I have done for them, and the integrity that I have shown to Franklin County, the loyalty… then theoretically, I shouldn’t have a problem. That said, we know all this crap has been put out there and it continues.”

McAllister said the one-sided media attention has diminished his chances at getting reelected.

“So am I going to have an easy time of getting reelected?” he asked. “Course not. I’m a long shot. I went from being the highest vote getter in the county to a very long shot because of the trash that’s been written.”

McAllister said he probably doesn’t have a great chance of “even making it through the primary.”

“How can you feel confident when so much crap has been written about you?” he asked. “If they go by me, and my record and who I’ve been for the last forty years here, yeah. If they want to believe the articles that [the Messenger] writes and you know, the scam that’s being run on me?”

The answer would be no. The Messenger asked him why he decided to run again, if his chances were so low?

“Here’s the thing, and it probably sounds egotistical, but this is my state,” McAllister said. “I’m invested here. My family was here. My roots are here. I did not like what was going on with our state. I’d been down there, fighting tooth and nail, to turn things differently, get back to Vermont.”

“I think Vermonters, native Vermonters, old-time Vermonters are getting priced out of being able to stay here,” he said, “and that makes me angry.”

House Representative Carolyn Branagan’s decision to join the race was another reason to run. “What I don’t like is people who say one thing and vote another way,” McAllister said. “You can’t harp about, ‘Oh these people are spending too much money. They’re crazy. They’re just out of control.’ And then be in the committee that actually funds that and vote for it. You can’t do that… and that’s what she has done.”

McAllister continued, “Coincidentally, this last year, 2016, was the first time she’s voted against the budget and against the Ways and Means, who she’s vice chair of.”

“How phony is that?” he questioned. “You’re going to run for the Senator [and] all of a sudden you’re conservative and you want to show everybody how you didn’t vote for [the budget] when you did it,” for so many years before?

McAllister said he feels “bitter” about the Republican Party’s lack of support for his candidacy, despite being the incumbent. “I haven’t done anything,” he said, “and quite truthfully, I think they underestimated what my will to move forward was. Nobody asked me if I was going to run… they just assumed I wasn’t going to because that’s what they would do. Well I’m probably not like the rest of them.”

He said he decided to steer clear of the party because of the trial and the party has done the same.

Democrats, including state’s attorney Jim Hughes, have “used this to gain footing here,” he said. “Because I’m going to tell you that the Democrats were not happy last election cycle. They lost all but two seats.”

When asked how he was handling both the trial and campaign emotionally and mentally, McAllister said he’s a wreck and wouldn’t be where he is today without his family.

“I’m a wreck,” he said. “If you had all these people writing crap that you knew isn’t true. If you had all this public opinion out there, that you’re a hateful…. You’ve got to be heinous to have these things… to have people believe that they’re true. And I’ve done nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

McAllister said his financial situation is no better. “I don’t know how I’m even going to be able to hang onto my farm. I had to give the property to my lawyers that my wife and I had a greenhouse business on.”

He said the land wasn’t even sold at its appraised worth. “That was my wife’s,” he said. “It was like losing a part of her again. So you’re asking me how I’m doing? No, I’m not doing very good… I’m probably a little bitter because I can’t believe how people have turned on me and I’ve done nothing but serve the people.”

The last three years have been a nightmare,” McAllister said between the death of his wife in 2013, the trial and being suspended from the Senate this winter.

“My family has been the rock that’s held me together,” he said. “My kids and my good friends, my best friends. My neighbors that knew me.”

“Everything that I’ve done for this state, for this county, for the people in it, didn’t count,” McAllister said. “The [alleged victims] who are bringing these things against me have never done shit for this county or this state. They don’t even contribute and these are the people that are ruining my reputation. And ill never get it back. It’ll never be cleared.”

“Being accused and being guilty is totally separate things,” McAllister pointed out. “The problem with this is, even when I’m found not guilty, how do I get my name back? How do I get my name back?”