SWANTON — State police arrested a local man for allegedly beating a woman with a metal rod.
Prosecutors charged 23-year-old Seth Benjamin with first-degree aggravated domestic assault with a weapon, a charge carrying a maximum sentence of 15 years and/or a $25,000 fine.
Benjamin pleaded not guilty to the charge during the Franklin County Criminal Court’s arraignment Monday afternoon.
The court released Benjamin on conditions not to contact or harass the alleged victim, or to come within 300 feet of the alleged victim, her place of work, her residence or even her vehicle.
The incident in question allegedly happened on Sept. 27 around 10:30 p.m.
The complainant told police she stopped at the Swanton Maplefields, on First Street, around that time to gas up her vehicle.
She wrote in her sworn statement that she stepped out of the convenience store to find Benjamin and another man standing near her vehicle, Benjamin with a metal rod in his hand.
The complainant said Benjamin hit her in the ribs, chest, eye and shoulder with the metal rod before shoving her to the ground and running to his own vehicle with the other man, both laughing, according to the complainant’s statement.
The complainant wrote that Benjamin told her, “This is nothing compared to if I see you again,” before she hit the ground.
She graded the pain at a “six or seven” on a scale of one to 10 in her statement.
The St. Albans Police Dept. began investigating before SAPD Sgt. Michael Malinowski asked the Vermont State Police to step in, avoiding a conflict of interest.
Malinowski wrote in his affidavit that the complainant showed him her injuries, which he noted would have been one week old at the time. Malinowski reported seeing two scratches on her nose and a slight bruise above her eye.
He wrote the complainant also submitted a photo she took after the assault. VSP Trooper Matthew Conte said the complainant submitted multiple photos showing “bruising and redness to [the complainant]’s face, side and chest areas.”
Malinowski retrieved the Maplefields’ security camera footage ahead before the VSP stepped in.
He wrote in his affidavit the security footage showed the complainant pulling into the Maplefields at 11:45 p.m., but that the position of the complainant’s vehicle left only its roof visible in the footage.
“Anything that occurred next to the [vehicle] is not seen by the camera,” Malinowski wrote.
Malinowski wrote he saw Benjamin’s truck follow the path the complainant described, pulling out of the adjacent Hannaford parking lot “within a minute or two” after the complainant pulled into the station, and that the complainant’s vehicle pulled out of the station “a few minutes” after that.
Conte wrote in his own affidavit that the complainant’s injuries were still visible when he met her.
“I noted a distinct redness from the original injuries remained on her nose and above her eye even though the incident had occurred nine days prior,” Conte wrote.
Conte visited Benjamin at Benjamin’s residence on Oct. 6. Benjamin told Conte he couldn’t remember what happened the night in question, according to Conte’s affidavit, and that he was probably with his friend.
Conte wrote that when he contacted Benjamin’s friend, who the complainant said stood by during the reported assault, the man said he couldn’t remember what happened that night either.
Conte arrested Benjamin after that. The man’s friend called Benjamin while Conte was transporting him to the VSP’s St. Albans barracks and said now he remembered the events of the night.
Benjamin, his friend and his friend’s girlfriend then provided sworn statements about the night’s events at the VSP barracks.
All three wrote that they went to a fire in Highgate that evening.
Benjamin wrote that he went to the First Street McDonald’s, which is also adjacent to Hannaford and the Maplefields, “with a truck full of people” at an uncertain time, after which he returned to the fire and then went home between 11 p.m. and 12 a.m.
His friend wrote that he, his girlfriend, Benjamin and two others rode to McDonald’s, ran into a friend outside Hannaford, and stopped at the Maplefields “so I could get a can of chew.” He wrote that he alone exited the vehicle, that Benjamin did not, and that the group then went back to the fire until 1 a.m.
His girlfriend’s story was identical, including the Maplefields stop “to grab a tin of chew” before heading back to the fire. She wrote that Benjamin was with the pair from 8 p.m.-1 a.m.