ST. ALBANS CITY — State prosecutors and former Franklin County Senator Norm McAllister’s defense attorneys met in the Franklin County Superior Court Monday morning to resolve any extenuating issues prior to the trial. There were none. But Deputy State’s Attorney John Lavoie made one thing clear: this will not be a repeat of last time.
Lavoie has taken over as the state’s lead prosecutor from Diane Wheeler, who led the prosecution in McAllister’s first trial, in June. That trial pitted McAllister’s word against that of his 21-year-old challenger, who perjured herself on a tangential issue while on the stand, leading the State to drop the charges.
But there is physical evidence related to the charges McAllister now faces, one felony count of sexual assault, punishable by three years to life in prison and a $25,000 fine, and two misdemeanor counts of prohibited acts, in this case procuring a person for the purpose of prostitution, each punishable by one year in prison and/or a $100 fine. One of those charges was amended on Monday from transporting someone for the purpose of committing a prohibited act to procuring a person to participate in a prohibited act.
There are phone calls recorded by the Vermont Northeast Unit for Special Investigations, a St. Albans-based special crime unit, during wiretaps, calls between McAllister and the accusers in question, one of whom is now deceased of natural causes.
Burlington-based attorneys David Williams and Brooks McArthur represent McAllister. Williams said in court yesterday that the defense does not object to prosecutors’ use of the phone conversations as central evidence in the impending trial. According to police affidavits, the conversations include McAllister acknowledging, “I knew I was forcing you to do something you didn’t want to do,” and complaining that one complainant’s pregnancy “put the kibosh” on his plans to use her for prostitution.
Williams acknowledged the recorded conversations are “very candid,” and said the conversations went “well beyond sexual activities.” “Once that tape is played,” Williams warned, “it will be our position that the doors are opened for cross-examination of both speakers on that tape.”
Judge Martin A. Maley, who will preside over the trial, asked Lavoie if he understood Williams’ position.
“I know what’s he saying,” Lavoie said. “I hear the words coming out of his mouth, but there’s a green book that comes into play.” He meant the encyclopedia of Vermont law. Lavoie “encouraged” Williams to ensure his familiarity with the book prior to engaging in those cross-examinations, while Williams asserted that there is legal precedent in Vermont to examine witnesses beyond the allegations themselves. The defense has said their approach will again be to undermine the credibility of the complainants themselves, not arguing that sexual interactions did not occur but arguing that they consensually occurred.
“How long do you expect the trial to take?” Maley asked.
Lavoie returned, “Three days,” the moment Maley finished his sentence.
McAllister’s jurors were to be selected today. Jurors for McAllister’s first trial were selected in half a day, with a handful of candidates rejected due to impartiality or personal familiarity with McAllister. Lavoie said a goal of determining the jurors in half a day “might be ambitious now.”
McAllister’s trial begins Wednesday, Jan. 11.