Thursday March 14, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- A Rockingham man was sentenced on Wednesday to serve at least 15 months in prison after pleading guilty to lewd or lascivious conduct with a woman last year in Bellows Falls.

Given the amount of time Chad Parker already has spent behind bars since his arrest in May, he will reach the threshold of that minimum sentence later this year.

But mandatory, prison-based treatment for sex offenders likely will keep Parker incarcerated longer than that, Judge John Wesley said in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division.

Even when Parker has served his minimum sentence, "it’s almost certain that you will not get (out) into the community at that time," Wesley said.

Bellows Falls police have said Parker entered a residence on May 9 and asked to speak with one of the women there. She agreed and followed him into a room, but police said Parker subsequently locked the door and attempted to have sex with the victim.

"The nature of the conduct speaks for itself," said David Gartenstein, Windham County deputy state’s attorney.

Gartenstein said there is little dispute about the facts of the case aside from the question of familiarity between Parker and the victim.

"They disagree about whether they knew each other before," Gartenstein said. "The defendant says he knew her, and she says he didn’t."

He added that the victim "was in favor of this agreement going forward in the form it is presented to the court."

The plea agreement’s recommended sentence -- which Wesley accepted -- was 15 months to four years in prison. Sex-offender treatment will continue when Parker is on furlough, Gartenstein said.

He noted Parker’s "extensive interactions with the criminal justice system." That includes previous felony convictions for aggravated domestic assault, aggravated domestic assault with a weapon and escape from custody.

"It’s because of the defendant’s criminal history that we were looking for this sort of sentence," Gartenstein said.

Parker, 36, initially was charged as a repeat offender, and that could have meant a more lengthy prison term. But that "enhancement" was dropped as part of the plea deal, Gartenstein said.

Christopher Montgomery, Parker’s defense attorney, said his client "never intended to force himself or coerce her to engage in a sex act. That was a misunderstanding."

Montgomery also made clear that Parker "is not pleading to committing a forcible rape or a forcible attempted rape."

Nonetheless, Parker acknowledges exposing himself to the victim and takes responsibility for that act, Montgomery said.

Parker, in a brief statement, said he would have apologized to the victim directly if she had appeared in court.

"I am very sorry if she thought I was trying to force myself on her," he said.

Wesley praised Parker for admitting the crime and for understanding that the victim did not see the act as consensual.

"You sounded sincere just now," the judge said. "That’s a good start."

However, he said Parker has "basically lived a life outside any kind of respect for the law" based on his criminal record.

"I hope, Mr. Parker, that you’re at a turnaround point," Wesley said. "You’re still a relatively young man."

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.