Former State Senator Norm McAllister was granted a new trial last year by the Vermont Supreme Court after they ruled his conviction on a prostitution charge was not handled properly. Now, a judge in the case is granting a new trial and suggesting it be moved to Chittenden County.
Judge Michael Kupersmith recommended in a Franklin County courtroom on Friday that the trial is moved to a new venue since there has been extensive news coverage on the case in the past within Franklin County.
Kupersmith, who was recently assigned to the case, was getting up to speed with the attorneys, “There’s obviously been a lot of publicity on this case,” he said, “Has there been any thought about trying it here as opposed to trying it somewhere else?”
“I think it would be better in Chittenden County,” replied Assistant State’s Attorney John Lavoie.
“My feeling is this, I think if you bring in enough jurors, you’ll find 12 or 14 jurors who will say that despite what they have said or heard that they can be fair and impartial, but you might have to go through several hundred people to do that,” Kupersmith explained.
Lavoie chimed in to surgest that a change in venue to Chittenden County could not be a hardship on anyone involved in the case.
“I was thinking that we would move it to Chittenden, it would be the logical place,” said Kupersmith, “It’s within reasonable proximity, the Free Press doesn’t print anything anymore, and there are enough people there that will say ‘Yeah, I know something about the case, but I couldn’t tell you what it is.'”
McAllister’s Defense Attorney, Bob Katims said he would like a week to file a 48B motion, which would ask the judge to throw out the case in the interest of Justice.
The idea behind that motions is that McAllister has already been through enough, with two trials and hundreds of thousands of dollars in defense bills, for the interest of justice, let the case rest.
The Judge did not rule one way or another on that but did suggest that he would deny the moti0n by asking the attorneys how long they would need to prepare for trial.
“I assume both sides are ready for trial,” Katims told the Judge, “It’s just a matter of getting it in within the rest of our schedules.”
Katims asked that a trial not be scheduled before April, as his schedule is busy with other cases until then.
The duration of the trial, though slightly controversial, is expected to be relatively short.
McAllister’s previous trial was scheduled for two weeks, this trial, according to the prosecution should be scheduled for only two days.
“Two days, what are you going to do for two days?” Katims asked Lavoie, “Measure his fist again?”
The comment referred to a part of McAllister’s last trial when Lavoie was cross-examining McAllister and tried to measure the circumference of McAllister’s fist, illustrating to the jury a sexual act that McAllister was accused of.
The move to Chittenden must also be approved by Judge Gerson in Montpelier, who serves as the Chief Superior Court Judge for the State of Vermont, as well as officials in Chittenden County.
Kupersmith also approved a request by the defense for the State to give them an updated list of potential witnesses. Although the prosecution is already required to do so, the defense argued that the witness list is quite a bit longer than it needed to be, and was merged with the witnesses from other counts other than the one in which McAllister is being retried.
The prosecution agreed to provide such a list that would be narrowed down and pertain to just the one count McAllister would be tried on.
The case of McAllister dates back to 2015 when three women accused McAllister of sexually inappropriate relationships with them.
He was charged with two felony counts of sexual assault, and four misdomenor sex related charges.
Two of those charges were dropped when it became evident that the complaining witness in the case had said an untruthful statement on the stand.
Another cahrge was dropped when the complaining witness in the case died of natural causes.
The remaining three charges went to trial in 2017, leading to an acquittal on two of the most serious charges, and a guilty verdict on a charge of prostitution.
That conviction was what the Vermont Supreme Court overturned, and what the new trial will be all about.
McAllister was a five-term House Representative and a two-term State Senator when he was arrested at the State House in Montpelier in May of 2015.
Since his arrest, McAllister has maintained his innocence, except for a brief few hours when he accepted a guilty plea, which would have put him behind bars for up to seven years.
The following day, McAllister fired his legal team and requested to have his guilty plea reversed.
McAllister has served 6 months on probation for his conviction on the prostitution charge but has yet to serve the 30 days of work crew that he was also sentenced to.