HIGHGATE PARAEDUCATOR DENIES ADDITIONAL CHARGES, SEEKS RELEASE

Josie Spears appears for her arraignment in Franklin County Criminal Court on Friday, April 28, 2017. Gregory J. Lamoureux photo

ST. ALBANS: Entering the St. Albans courtroom in shackles and prison garb on Friday, Josie Spears, 33, was being charged with five new counts, after her public arraignment had been postponed 24 hours prior.

The prosecutor argued Spears should be held without bail, citing Spears’ alleged violations, the potential for a life sentence, and a belief that there was a great deal of evidence to presume guilt in the case.

Arguing on behalf of Spears, her Defense Attorney Jessica Burke pointed out to the court the only evidence the State has on the charges that bring life is a statement made by the alleged victim in the case, which was contradictory to his previous statements to police two months ago.

“He said the defendant did not touch him at any point, she only gave me hugs,” Burke read from the police original affidavit.

“The only significant evidence of anything different is the same juvenile, with the same detective, making contradictory statements,” Burke added.

Burke went on to argue that her client should be released because the contradictory statements do not rise to the level of enough guilt to hold her client on the life charges.

Burke talked to the media, after the arraignment, in an attempt to better explain her client’s side of the case.

“She said the allegations are disgusting,” Burke recalled how her client described the case. “She said this is horrendous and this is nothing that she would ever do. She’s horrified. “

Burke went on to say her client is “Steadfast in her innocence.”

Burke said that she didn’t want to intimidate or railroad a child, but they have to look at the facts and say “Hey, this is contradictory and my procedural rights and innocence matter.”

The violation of conditions charges was low level and would not typically be charged, according to Burke. When she was pushed for why her client would take the risk of violating just to say hi to a child, Burke played it off as her client not perceiving the situation as a violation.

“I think she didn’t perceive the gravity of the situation,” Burke said, “As a person who hasn’t had these sexual contacts, you aren’t perceiving the danger of something as simple as saying ‘hello’ to someone in the Dollar General.

“I can see the reasoning of an innocent person being in a public place, seeing someone she knows and saying hi, and not putting that together as ‘oh, this is the type of behavior the court is asking me not to do,’ because that is just a normal societal interaction,” Burke said.

Burke said that she can not comment on the initial allegations of nude photographs and messages allegedly being sent between Spears and the boy because, despite several attempts, the state has not provided the evidence in the case to the defense for review.

A follow-up hearing is scheduled to determine Spears’ potential for release on conditions and/or bail. That hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at 1:00 pm. Until then, she will be held at the Chittenden County Correctional Center.

Burke noted that she appreciated Judge Rainville’s methodical approach to the aspect of bail and conditions of release as it pertains to Vermont Law.

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