BRATTLEBORO -- Three men accused of sexually assaulting a minor all pleaded not guilty in court Friday afternoon.
According to a press release from the Wilmington Police Department, at just past 3 a.m. on July 23, the Vermont State Police received a 911 phone call placed by the victim from the Wardsboro Highway Department building, into which she had broken.
When rescue personnel arrived she told first responders she had been sexually assaulted in Wilmington by three males. She was interviewed at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital by troopers, following which a joint investigation was initiated by the Vermont State Police and the Wilmington Police Department.
According to court documents, police learned the minor had been brought to the Main Street residence of Dennis Pike Jr. in Wilmington, where she was given alcohol and assaulted by Pike, 26, Codie Johnson, 20, of Jacksonville, and Jonathan Deblois, 21, of Readsboro.
According to documents filed by Wilmington Police Department Det. Mark Denault, the victim made arrangements to meet with Deblois through Facebook. Deblois took the victim to Pike's apartment where he had sex with her, wrote the detective, following which she, Deblois and Pike left to purchase alcohol. They drank at Johnson's house before returning to Wilmington, where Deblois had sex with the victim a second time, stated the court documents.
At one point, the victim told police, she was handcuffed to the bed at which time the three men "took turns with her."
During the investigation, Denault spoke with Deblois, who told him that he had previously met the victim on July 18, when she told him she was 18 years old. Following that initial meeting, they had sex, said Deblois. He admitted to having sex with the victim again on July 22, at which time they drank alcohol. Deblois told Denault that the girl asked him to invite Pike and Johnson to have sex with her.
In an affidavit filed by VSP Det. Sgt. Frank LaBombard, Johnson admitted to drinking alcoholic beverages with the victim. He also admitted to having sex with her, but told police Deblois told him she was 18. After having sex with her, Johnson told police "he felt awkward" and left the room. The victim then had sex with Pike, but then she began to argue with Deblois and Pike, stated Johnson. During the argument she told the three men that she was in fact, not 18 years old. Johnson also told police that pictures were taken of the girl while naked and possibly while having sex.
In an affidavit filed by State Police Det. Trooper Tyson Kinney, Pike also admitted to having sex with the victim.
After the argument in which the victim told the men her actual age, she was driven to Wardsboro State Park, where she was left. Upon returning to his residence in Wilmington, Pike attempted to dispose of evidence of the sexual encounters, which included condom wrappers, the handcuffs and a mattress pad.
While in Vermont Superior Court, Windham Criminal Division, Friday afternoon, Johnson was charged with two counts of sexual assault on a victim less than 16 years old, one count of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child and one count of enabling the consumption of alcohol by a minor. He was released on an unsecured surety bond of $5,000.
Pike was charged with two counts of sexual assault on a victim less than 16 years old, one count of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child and one count of furnishing alcohol to a minor. He was released after 10 percent of a $10,000 bond was posted on his behalf.
Deblois was charged with four counts of sexual assault on a victim less than 16 years old, two counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child and one count of furnishing alcohol to a minor. He was released on an unsecured surety bond of $10,000.
All three men were ordered to report every day between 8 and 10 a.m. at the Wilmington Police Department.
During the court hearing, attorneys for the three men argued that all of them had deep ties to the area and two of them were still living at home with their parents. About 15 people sat in the observers' benches behind the defendant's table in support of the three men.
James Valente, of Costello, Valente & Gentry in Brattleboro, said after the hearing that he would be exploring whether his client, Dublois, had criminal intent when he engaged in the acts he is accused of.
"There is a general rule in common law that an act is not criminal if it doesn't involve a criminal mind," he said.
The court will have to look closely at the elements of the case that led up to the alleged sexual encounters, he said, including the fact that the victim told the men she was 18 years old.
While he admitted under current law that doesn't matter, Valente said he might still argue his defendant had no idea he was engaging in a sexual act with a minor.
All three men, or their attorneys, will appear in court next month for scheduling conferences. If convicted, the three defendants could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.
Bob Audette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.