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Norman McAllister

Other Vermont exonerations
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On May 7, 2015, Vermont State Police arrested 63-year-old Norman McAllister, a Republican State Senator, on charges of sexual assault and procuring prostitution involving three different women as far back as 2012.

One woman, identified as S.L. who was then 40 years old, said she took a farmhand job on McAllister’s goat farm in Highgate, Vermont. She claimed that McAllister subsequently raped her and forced her to have sex with him to pay for a portion of her rent for a trailer on the property. S.L. also accused him of arranging for her to have sex with another man, who then paid McAllister $70 that was due on her electric bill.

S.L.’s mother in law, D.L., also accused McAllister of demanding that she have sex with him in return for unpaid rent owed by S.L.’s ex-husband, who had moved in with S.L. on the goat farm.

A third woman alleged that McAllister sexually assaulted her when she was a 20-year-old intern for McAllister and while she also was working on the farm.

The case involving D.L. was dismissed by Franklin County prosecutors months later when D.L. died. In the summer of 2016, McAllister went to trial in Franklin County Superior Court on the charges relating to the allegations by his former intern. That proceeding ended mid-trial, when it was disclosed that the woman had lied about details of her relationship with another person on the farm.

By the time McAllister came to court to begin jury selection on the third case in January 2017, he had been stripped of his elected position. McAllister was facing one charge of sexual assault and two counts of procuring prostitution. On the Friday before jury selection was to begin, McAllister’s defense team asked the prosecution if they would consider resolving the case without a trial. Negotiations between the prosecution and the defense continued throughout the day on January 10.

By day’s end, a jury had been selected, but McAllister agreed to plead no contest to a reduced charge of lewd and lascivious behavior and the two counts of procuring prostitution.

However, McAllister soon retained a new lawyer, Robert Katims. Just a few days after he pled, he was allowed to withdraw the plea.

In June 2017, Katims moved to dismiss the charges after he discovered that the prosecution had failed to disclose that S.L. had a history of mental problems and lying to the police. Katims discovered that S.L. had previously accused her husband of abuse. During those proceedings, she claimed to have been previously diagnosed with dissociative personality disorder. She had also recanted her accusation against her husband, after swearing to its truth under oath on multiple occasions. She also told a prosecutor and a judge that she sometimes “heard voices in her head,” and didn’t know if her testimony would be the truth.

The motion was denied and in July 2017, McAllister went to trial. S.L. testified that in November 2012, she answered an advertisement on Craigslist for a job on McAllister’s goat farm. She said that her husband was in prison, she had lost custody of her children, and the half-way house where she was living said she had to leave in three weeks.

She said the job required caring for and milking the goats. When McAllister asked why he should hire her, she said she would be willing to do anything he needed done. She said he responded, “Anything?” She said yes, and he said, “No, I mean, like anything.” She said that when she said yes again, McAllister replied, “As a man, that’s what I like to hear.” She said she took the job in part because McAllister said he could help her regain custody of her children.

S.L. said that she was allowed to live in a dilapidated trailer on the farm and was paid $300 per week for 25 to 50 hours of work. McAllister deducted $150 from each $300 as rent for the trailer.

Soon, S.L. said, McAllister began coercing her to have sex. On one occasion, he forced her to have anal sex as “punishment” because she had caused an accident on the farm that injured another worker. She also testified that he once shoved his entire fist into her vagina. She told the jury that on one occasion, when she owed $70 for her electric bill but could not afford it, McAllister arranged for her to have sex with another man who then gave McAllister the $70 to pay the bill.

The prosecution played a more than 30-minute recording made by state police of a telephone conversation between S.L. and McAllister. During the call, they discussed their sexual relationship and how she had suffered pain during two particular incidents. When she said she was crying and asked him to stop, McAllister replied, "I truly didn't hear you say stop, or please don't or whatever.”

He later said, “I know I was basically forcing you to do something you didn't want to do.”

During another portion of the tape, S.L. said, “I think I started to end up feeling kind of like your prostitute.” McAllister replied, “And, well, that's what it turned into, truly.”

S.L. said that McAllister kissed and groped her during her first interview at the farm. She said that while most of her sexual contact consisted of her performing oral sex on him, they did have intercourse numerous times. “None of it felt consensual,” she said. “Sex is not something I was indicating when I told him that I’d be willing to anything originally, and it wasn’t something that I would have offered.”

S.L also testified that McAllister had suggested that she could earn money by going around to various farms and offering to perform sex on migrant workers.

Defense attorney Katims cross-examined S.L. about her mental issues. He suggested that in fact their relationship was consensual and began after McAllister’s wife died in 2013.

S.L. admitted that she had purposely lied in unrelated court cases involving her husband when she said he had abused her. Katims also elicited evidence that during a domestic violence case against her husband, she told a judge she had difficulties with her memory and was once diagnosed with dissociative personality disorder. S.L. testified that her diagnosis was subsequently changed to acute stress syndrome.

The prosecution was allowed to present evidence—over defense objection—of the claim made by S.L.’s now deceased mother-in-law, D.L., that McAllister solicited her for sex to pay for her son’s rent.

McAllister testified that S.L. came on to him when he was feeling lonely and sad after his wife died. He said their relationship was consensual, and that the two incidents where S.L. claimed extreme pain occurred during consensual sex and both agreed not to do those things again.

McAllister denied suggesting that S.L. solicit migrant workers for sex to earn money. He said that S.L. brought it up, and that he told her it was a horrible idea. McAllister said he asked her why she thought she could do something like that, and she said “(B)ecause I did it with a guy before for money.”

The prosecution objected on the ground that the testimony violated Vermont’s rape shield law, which forbids questioning complainants about prior sexual activity. However, when the defense said this was a reference to the sex-for-electricity charge, the objection was never ruled upon and the matter was dropped.

During deliberation, the jury sent out a question asking about McAllister’s statement that S.L. said she had previously prostituted herself, and if the objection had been sustained or overruled. The judge ordered the jury to disregard that testimony that she had had sex for money in the past.

On July 15, 2017, the jury convicted McAllister of the misdemeanor charge of procuring prostitution relating to the testimony regarding S.L. having sex with a friend of McAllister’s to pay a $70 rent bill. The jury acquitted McAllister on the remaining procuring prostitution charge and the sexual assault charge. McAllister was sentenced to nine months to a year in jail, but the sentence was suspended except for 25 days of work crew, and he was placed on probation.

In November 2019, the Vermont Supreme Court reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial. The court ruled that the presentation of evidence relating to D.L.’s accusation should not have been allowed. The court also ruled that the trial judge was wrong to strike McAllister’s testimony that S.L. had sex for money in the past.

In April 2019, McAllister went to trial again on the charge of sex-for-electricity, but a mistrial was declared when a juror admitted to seeing a television news report about the case while the trial was still going on.

In October 2019, McAllister went to trial once more. During this trial, he did not testify. Katims questioned S.L. about the sex-for-electric bill claim in more detail than he had been allowed to at McAllister’s first trial. In addition, S.L. now testified that she did not lie during the previous unrelated domestic assault charge against her husband, but instead was lying during the two previous trials when she testified her husband did not abuse her. On October 23, 2019, a jury acquitted McAllister.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 11/18/2019
State:Vermont
County:Franklin
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:Misdemeanor
Reported Crime Date:2015
Convicted:2017
Exonerated:2019
Sentence:Not sentenced
Race/Ethnicity:White
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:63
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No