BRATTLEBORO -- A Norwich man is denying allegations that he sexually abused a child while employed at the now-defunct Santa's Land in Putney.
Todd E. Jardin was arraigned Wednesday in Vermont Superior Court Windham Unit on two felony charges including aggravated sexual assault of a victim under 13 years old, a count that carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The 38-year-old suspect's attorney, James Valente, said his client proclaimed his innocence during their first meeting Wednesday morning.
"He's resolute that he didn't do what they claim he did," Valente said. "He's prepared to go to whatever lengths are necessary to show he's innocent."
In addition to the sexual assault count, Jardin also is charged with lewd and lacivious conduct with a child.
In a court affadavit, state police said Jardin worked at Santa's Land in 2009 and 2010. He was a cook at the park.
Police allege that Jardin repeatedly took the child "into the changing room near the game room and touched (the victim's) 'private areas.'" The child asked Jardin to stop, but he did not, police said.
As a policy, the Reformer does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.
The complaint came to light in May, when the child told a therapist what had happened, police said. Valente said he would be looking into the delay between the alleged incidents and their disclosure to police.
"We don't know why it was two to three years before
Police said that, during an interview in May, Jardin denied the allegations but admitted to viewing child pornography online.
He was taken into custody Tuesday without incident, court documents say. Jardin appeared in court in Brattleboro Wednesday afternoon wearing a T-shirt and jeans.
Deputy State's Attorney Steven Brown asked Judge David Suntag to order Jardin held without bail. But Valente argued that several factors should work in his client's favor, including his cooperation with State Police.
"The defendant also voluntarily appeared for a polygraph test, and he has repeatedly cooperated with police knowing that he was being investigated for a very serious charge," Valente said.
The defense attorney also said his client has "no record of violence or any serious crimes." In a subsequent interview, Valente said Jardin's criminal record consists of misdemeanor, driving-related offenses.
Valente also said Jardin has lived in Norwich "for a long time" and works as a restaurant manager in New Hampshire.
"There's nothing to suggest that he's going to run," Valente said.
Brown saw Jardin's New Hampshire employment differently.
"I am concerned about his ties to New Hampshire and his lack of ties to this state," Brown said, adding that Jardin had failed to appear in court in connection with one of his previous cases.
Suntag imposed $20,000 bail with several conditions, including a requirement that Jardin report to Norwich police daily between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m.
The suspect also cannot leave Vermont except to go to work, and he is barred from having any contact with children under age 16 unless it is "incidental contact, only while at work and then only when there's another adult present," Suntag said.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.