ST. ALBANS — Jacob Burnham wanted to spend Valentine’s Day night in a Montreal hotel room but was arrested instead when border agents discovered his date was almost half his age, according to an affidavit.
On Wednesday, the 25-year-old Milton man pleaded not guilty in Franklin Superior Court to three felony charges, including one count of sexual assault of a victim younger than 16 and two counts of sexual exploitation of a child.
If convicted, Burnham could face a sentence of up to 30 years in jail.
Judge A. Gregory Rainville set bail at $20,000. Burnham was held at Northwestern State Correctional Center for lack of bail.
“It is extremely concerning when it involves a 13-year-old girl leaving the country under false pretenses,” Rainville said.
On Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, Burnham picked the girl up from school and they ran errands together before driving to the Canadian border, according to a Vermont State Police affidavit. But the two were turned back and questioned by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Highgate Port of Entry.
During the interview, Burnham said he had not intended to stay the night with the girl in Canada and had only wanted to see whether he could cross the border with a DUI conviction, according to the affidavit. He said he wanted to attend a bachelor party in a few months.
The girl told officers the same story but eventually cracked and told the truth, according to the affidavit. She said they had planned to drive to Montreal, get a hotel room and have sex.
Burnham told officers that he and the girl “spent the night together a few times” and have had sex, according to the affidavit. The girl said they’d had sex once in his bedroom in Milton.
“She stated that it was her idea and that she pushed him into it because he was concerned about her age,” the affidavit states.
The girl told Burnham that she was 17 or 19 years old, according to the affidavit.
After searching Burnham’s and the girl’s cellphones, Homeland Security Investigations officers discovered text messages between them dating back to May 20, some of which discussed plans to have sex together. They agreed to tell the girl’s parents that Burnham was 17 if they were caught, according to the affidavit.
In an interview with the girl’s father, officers learned that he believed Burnham was 17, according to the affidavit. Her father said he had repaired vehicles with Burnham.