By Gregory J. Lamoureux
ST. ALBANS: In a case that has had countless twists and turns, the latest may end the charges against former Senator Norm McAllister of Highgate.
Through McAllister’s lawyer, the defense is contesting the prosecution’s integrity in how they have handled evidence relating to McAllister and those who have accused him of several sex crimes.
Defense Attorney Bob Katims alleges the prosecution violated what is known as “Brady Material” by not disclosing details of evidence that the state had.
The bulk of the Brady Violation accusation by the defense is McAllister’s accuser has a history of lying, even under oath, in previous cases.
Katims argued the disclosure of the new evidence could drastically change their case and that is unfair to the defense to hold them accountable for the prosecution’s actions.
According to Katims, the evidence in question had been held by the state not just since McAllister’s 2015 arrest but had for the past five or so years. The prosecution was only recently given a copy of this evidence after they discovered that it might exist and requested it from the prosecutor’s office this month.[bar group=”86″]
In this new evidence, the accuser allegedly had previously been diagnosed with a disorder called dissociative personality disorder, a condition that is known to cause her to hear voices that aren’t there. She has also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, court records show, indicating that her testimony against McAllister may not be accurate.
In 2012 the accuser testified under oath she doesn’t always know if the voices are real or from her head.
In the 2012 case, the woman told police that her then husband choked her, took her keys to prevent her from leaving, spit in her face, poured hot coffee on her head, threatened to burn down their home with her in it, pulled her hair out of her head and tried to slam her head against the dash of their vehicle, and head butted her while she was holding their child.
At least some of those accusations were determined to be false.
Katims argued that given the new evidence, and the time proximity to the upcoming trial, the actions of the state amount to a Brady Violation and therefore McAllister’s charges should be thrown out by the court.[bar group=”86″]
The judge gave the prosecutors a week to file arguments against the motion to dismiss the charges; then he’ll make the decision on if the charges should continue to trial.
In the same court hearing on Tuesday, McAllister’s lawyers told the court that they needed to have access to private DCF records relating to McAllister’s accuser and her family’s status with DCF through the time that the sex crimes allegedly took place.
McAllister is accused of taking advantage of the accuser sexually by telling her that her status with DCF could be improved if he helped her, through his position of a state Senator.
McAllister’s attorney said in court he needed access to the DCF records to determine if there was any paperwork that backed up McAllister’s defense theory, which Katims declined to outline.
The prosecution agreed that the DCF should hand over the documents, however, an attorney for the DCF argued against that.[bar group=”86″]
Attorney Howard Stalnaker told the court the DCF records are voluminous and the release of such records could negatively affect the children the department is intended to protect.
Prosecutor John Lavoie and Katims both denied that holding the records back from the criminal court process would be the appropriate course of action.
Lavoie said although he wants to keep children in Vermont safe, his concern is with the prosecution of McAllister and whether holding the evidence back from the defense could at some point negatively affect the case.
“I’ve seen cases be reversed by not having documents released,” Lavoie said, “I’ve never seen a case reversed by releasing evidence to the defense.”
For the time being, McAllister’s three-day long trial is scheduled for the week of July 10th, but the discussion in the courtroom today indicated the defense might not have appropriate time to prepare for what they expect to be a two-week trial, that is if the case isn’t thrown out altogether.