Courts & Corrections

Attorney: Charges dropped against McAllister after accuser lied

Sexual assault and rape charges against a state senator were dropped after the accusing witness admitted she “had not been truthful” during her testimony in court, according to the witness’s attorney.

One day into the trial of Sen. Norm McAllister earlier this month, prosecutors dropped two felony charges. The Franklin County Republican faced allegations that he sexually abused and raped a young woman who worked on his farm and as his intern at the Statehouse.

Sen. Norm McAllister (left) and attorney Brooks McArthur left the Franklin County courthouse Thursday. Photo by Elizabeth Hewitt/VTDigger
Sen. Norm McAllister, left, and his attorney Brooks McArthur leave the Franklin County courthouse June 16. File photo by Elizabeth Hewitt/VTDigger

Karen Shingler, a Burlington lawyer who represents the young woman, said Monday that the state’s attorney dropped the charges against McAllister after learning the 21-year-old woman lied about a detail while testifying.

“The prosecution made a decision to dismiss it after realizing that the complaining witness had not been truthful about a collateral issue,” Shingler said.

The “collateral” issue, Shingler said, was “that she had kissed a boy.”

Terri Hallenbeck of Seven Days first reported that Shingler said that the witness admitted to lying about a detail while under oath. The Associated Press later reported that, according to Shingler, the witness admitted that she had kissed a co-worker on McAllister’s farm, which she had denied during questioning on the stand.

The witness was on the stand for much of the first day of the trial, answering questions at length from the state and the defense. Brooks McArthur, McAllister’s defense attorney, told the jury in his opening statement that the young woman had given inconsistent statements during different interviews. Through the course of questioning, a discrepancy emerged over how many incidents of assault allegedly had occurred.

Asked if the witness told any other untruths while on the witness stand, Shingler said, “No, not that I know of.”

“She stands by her story regarding Mr. McAllister,” Shingler said.

When asked why the prosecution would dismiss the charges based on a lie about a collateral detail, Shingler replied, “That’s a question best answered by (Deputy State’s Attorney) Diane Wheeler.”

Wheeler and Franklin County State’s Attorney Jim Hughes did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

McArthur said Monday that the witness was “not credible through her testimony.”

“This young woman has a different version of events of everything she talked about,” McArthur said.

McArthur said he agrees with victims advocates who say victims of sex abuse experience significant trauma that can impair their memories of events. However, he said that was not the case for this young woman, who he suggested was simply making things up.

Kris Lukens, of Voices Against Violence, said Monday that trauma can affect a victim’s memory. “It’s hard in general for victims to be able to say everything, to remember (everything) in the sequence it happened,” Lukens said.

“It’s not about someone lying or being untruthful,” Lukens said. “It’s just that their truth might look a little bit different.”

McAllister faces additional charges stemming from allegations from another woman who claims he sexually abused her. That trial has not been scheduled.

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Elizabeth Hewitt

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  • Dave Bellini

    “It’s not about someone lying or being untruthful,” Lukens said. “It’s just that their truth might look a little bit different.” — Who said that, Richard Nixon ? It’s not OK to lie under oath in court.

    • Rich Lachapelle

      The statement needs to be examined under the criteria of the “past-Clinton” world where it depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is.

    • Amanda Schroth

      You weren’t there. The girl was being questioned for hours on the stand, people – including the person she was accusing – were there, watching her. The amount of pressure she could’ve been under and the way she could have been questioned. I doubt the question regarding kissing her co-worker was the first question or last question she was asked, it was probably jumbled into everything else since it’s considered “tangent” to the subject.

      The fact that she admitted to her lie shows that she took her oath seriously, which is why she brought it to her lawyer’s attention.

      • And as another publication noted, the prosecution did little, if anything, to prepare the witness for the defense’s question. There was also no expert testimony on behalf of the witness.

  • Jamie Carter

    Certainly lying under oath is not acceptable in anyway, however I still put this one squarely at the feet of Wheeler and Hughes who should have prepared this witness adequately. Why was kissing a boy even asked? Where is the relevance of this issue? DId Ms. Wheeler anticipate this question? DId she object to it? Was this question in a deposition? Unfortunately it would appear that the states attorney did not do their jobs adequately…

    • Because the defense does everything they can to obfuscate the issue. Because people still believe that a woman kissing some other man means she should be open to kissing ALL the men. Because the whole point of this sort of grilling is to make every attempt to discredit the only witness to the crime in question, and the defense attorney grasps as any straw they can to get the charges dismissed. Because we still expect women to be “perfect victims” with total recall of everything, no matter how minute, and to never, ever make a mistake, or to never have had sex with anyone else, because otherwise she was asking for it all along.

  • Tom Grout

    Too many times in today’s society the way to get back at another person of the opposite sex is to claim harrassment, bullying and sexual discomforts. This is also what we teach in school.
    Most of these claims are unfounded and those making these accusations have no assets and are probably on public assistance.Here someone’s reputation is targeted to tarnish when the accuser has no scuples.

    • This claim is not born out by actual evidence and examination of the reality. People do not bring cases like this to this point frivolously.

    • Jamie Carter

      Except in this case the accused admitted to having sex with the accuser when she was the ripe old age of 16 and under his care. Tarnishing of the reputation kind of becomes a moot point at this stage…

  • I do not know whether Norm McAllister is innocent or guilty of charges of sexual abuse, but I would like to comment on the stereotypical myths conveyed near the end of the article. I am the author of VICTIMS OF MEMORY (and other books), about the repressed memory epidemic of the late 1980s and 1990s. I wish I could say that no psychologists still practice this misguided form of therapy based on a discredited theory, but it still does go on.

    But to my point. People tend to remember traumatic events better than other happenings because they make more of an impact — unless there is organic brain injury, that is. Post-traumatic stress disorder involves the involuntary and unwanted intrusion of such memories, not forgetting them somehow. Yet defense lawyer McArthur, in an excess of political correctness, said that “he agrees with victims advocates who say victims of sex abuse experience significant trauma that can impair their memories of events.”

    This myth that people repress or dissociate memories of abuse leads to statements such as those made by Kris Lukens of Voices Against Violence below:

    Kris Lukens, of Voices Against Violence, said Monday that trauma can affect a victim’s memory. “It’s hard in general for victims to be able to say everything, to remember (everything) in the sequence it happened,” Lukens said.

    “It’s not about someone lying or being untruthful,” Lukens said. “It’s just that their truth might look a little bit different.”

    This kind of reasoning has led to false convictions in sex abuse cases, in which the accused are often judged guilty until proven innocent. Alleged victims’ inconsistencies and shifting narratives are dismissed as the product of trauma rather than mendacity or memory manipulation (as in repressed memory therapy), in which conscious lying is not the issue.

  • Fred Woogmaster

    No matter what – this case represents a travesty of justice, in my opinion. The fact that this case was tried in Franklin County astounds me. Change of venue and recusal are frequently employed in the judicial process. Why not in this situation?

    • Jamie Carter

      I agree that a change of venue may have been appropriate, that should have been brought up by the state’s attorney but I think at this point the incompetence of the states attorney is established. That said, who should have recused themselves? I see no reason for a recusal, a change of venue maybe but that is at best a judgement call. The travesty of justice comes from the State’s attorney’s office.

  • This headline is misleading, it leads the reader to conclude that the accuser lied about the felony charges when in reality she lied about having kissed someone else in a different situation that has NOTHING to do with the felony charges.

    • I agree. A little more thought must be put into headlines, which, unfortunately, are all that many people seem to read. A careless headline can too easily rewrite the truth in the public memory.

  • Judith McLaughlin

    What I hope comes out of this case, and the one pending, is that here in Franklin County, we have economically and educationally disadvantaged young rural women, who are socially vulnerable – and are being sexually exploited. This young woman was described as a “simple girl” by Wheeler.

    Sorry, but no matter how you slice this, we cannot deny that this old man thought he could take advantage of a young woman, who perhaps thought her only lot in life was to put up with his advances…in order to earn a living. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time an old man used power, money or gifts to exploit a young, simple girl.

    And the fact that the Senator never denied his sexual relations indicates he thinks this is a “fair trade”.

    Either way…..the thought of him serving in any public office makes my skin crawl.

    • Al Walskey

      Judith, you could have been a solution to this admitted conundrum by running for the Franklin County senate again yourself.

      One of the startling revelations that came to light during this fiasco is the the legislature has held itself above the law by having no ethical (or moral) standards for it’s own members while imposing rigorous uncompromising standards on the public it has sworn to serve.

      In confronting this unfortunate dilemma the remedy that the legislature came up with was to deprive/punish the citizens of Franklin County by suspending a representative that they elected. They lacked the backbone and courage to either evict or clear one of their own. Because of this cowardly malfeasant action the citizens of Franklin paid a price.

      The charge that it is somehow unfair for those with power to abuse it rings hollow when the legislature itself uses its power to deprive the least among us of critical, sometimes life threatening, services. The blind, visually impaired, elderly and disabled who are dependent on transportation services here in Franklin county are rationed to a maximum of three use em or lose em trips per month. That includes medical. I know because as a legally blind, Agent Orange disabled Vietnam veteran my health issues have been exacerbated by the lack of a timely transportation service. Even though hundreds come to lobby on disability awareness day in Montpelier the legislature turns a blind eye to their dilemma by making cuts year after year. This at a time when the Vt. population is ageing… in need of more services.

      If you’d like to verify the facts I’ve cited, there is a group of blind, visually impaired and disabled people who meet at the Church of the Rock (St Albans) on the first and third Tuesdays of the month beginning in August. Come visit us.

  • Neil Johnson

    Something smells extremely fishy here. It’s interesting in the newest article they claim it’s the only reason they dropped the case, she lied about kissing another boy on the Farm. WHAT???Why would you drop the case about something so minor. We don’t have the facts. Either the prosecutor is the most incompetent person on the planet ( I doubt) or we don’t have the whole story. Attorneys have to defend known killers who can admit they are guilty and get them off. But do they have to prosecute if they find their case has no merit? It doesn’t make sense, this seems like a huge cover up. Something is very, very wrong here.