Sentencing delayed again for ex-St. Albans police officer in assault case

Nov 7 2022, 5:30 PM
Former St. Albans police officer Jason Lawton pleaded not guilty to a charge of simple assault in Franklin County court in November 2019. Pool photo by Gregory Lamoureux/County Courier

A sentencing hearing for a former St. Albans police officer who faces potential jail time for punching a handcuffed woman in the face has been delayed for the second time in about a month.

The hearing for Jason Lawton had initially been set in Franklin County Superior criminal court in St. Albans for Sept. 28, but was continued after the parties met with Judge Martin Maley behind closed doors just before its start time with no indication why.

That hearing was rescheduled for Monday. Lawton’s attorney filed a notice asking that the sentencing be continued again because a mental health expert the defense intended to call to testify was unavailable until later in the month.

According to the defense filing, the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, did not object to the judge granting the latest delay. 

In a deal with prosecutors, Lawton, 34, pleaded guilty in May to a misdemeanor charge of simple assault for striking Amy Connelly of Highgate in March 2019 at the St. Albans police station. 

The agreement called for a contested sentencing hearing, with the prosecution allowed to seek a jail term of up to six months while Lawton’s attorney could argue for a lesser sentence. 

According to video of the March 2019 encounter, Connelly had been in a holding cell at the St. Albans police station with her hands cuffed behind her back.

At one point she stands up, appearing to raise a leg toward Lawton. The video shows Lawton pushing her onto a bench inside the cell, grabbing her shirt near her neck, and punching her in the face. 

Lawton was later fired from the police department.

— Alan J. Keays

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