Courts & Corrections

McAllister to stand trial next week in second sex assault case

Norm McAllister stands outside the courthouse in St. Albans last year. File photo by Elizabeth Hewitt/VTDigger
ST. ALBANS — Former Franklin County Sen. Norm McAllister is scheduled to go before a jury next week in the second of two sexual assault trials stemming from charges filed in 2015.

The first trial ended in June when the state dropped its charges because McAllister’s accuser in that case perjured herself on a minor detail. McAllister, 65, of Highgate Center, has remained free on conditions.

McAllister was arrested outside the Statehouse at the end of the 2015 session and suspended by his colleagues for the second half of the biennium. He lost a bid for re-election in the August primary.

He will face one count of felony sexual assault in the upcoming trial, which carries a possible sentence of three years to life in prison and a $25,000 fine. It’s unclear if the state plans to pursue two misdemeanor charges of prohibited acts.

McAllister is accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a woman who was living in a trailer on his Highgate farm as part of a sex-for-rent scheme.

The two charges of prohibited acts stem from police recordings of phone conversations between McAllister and the former mother-in-law of the woman he allegedly sexually assaulted in the current case. Transcripts of those conversations could be interpreted as showing McAllister negotiating sex with the mother for her son’s half of rent on the trailer.

The mother, who first approached police with allegations against McAllister, died of natural causes shortly after his arrest.

First Deputy State’s Attorney Diane Wheeler, who is handling the prosecution, did not respond to inquiries about whether the state is still pursuing the misdemeanor charges.

McAllister’s defense will challenge the credibility of his accuser, according to court filings, as his attorneys did in the first trial. In November, McAllister’s attorneys wrote in a motion calling on Superior Court Judge Martin Maley to recuse himself that “the defense plans to attack (the accuser’s) credibility” using information from a civil trial where Maley presided.

The Franklin County state’s attorney’s office joined McAllister’s defense team in calling on Maley to recuse himself. In the previous civil trial — which did not involve McAllister — Maley granted a financial award to the woman who is now McAllister’s accuser in the upcoming criminal trial. Both the prosecution and McAllister’s defense say that award might create doubts about the judge’s impartiality.

Maley is also presiding in a separate case in Family Court that involves McAllister’s accuser’s child.

Chief Administrative Judge Brian Grearson rejected the recusal motion, quoting a previous ruling stating that “if such were the standard for disqualification, few trial judges in this state would be able to preside over cases involving some of our district court’s more frequent litigants.”

In a separate motion, McAllister’s defense attorneys called on the state to provide a “more definite statement” identifying the particular incident of sexual assault that is the basis for the charge.

Judge Maley denied the motion but wrote in his decision that the state must either specify a specific instance of sexual assault or separate the charge into multiple counts no later than the pretrial hearing scheduled for Monday.

Otherwise, Maley wrote that he will craft a unanimity instruction for the jury explaining that “each juror must agree as to which of the … sexual acts constituted … the crime.”

The jury draw is scheduled for Tuesday, and the trial itself is scheduled for Jan. 12 and 13.

McAllister’s accuser in this case has brought a separate lawsuit against him, which is on hold pending the outcome of the criminal case.

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Morgan True

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