Friday March 8, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- There is a significant difference between the crimes Charles Drake had been accused of and the less-serious charges he eventually admitted to.

Nonetheless, Drake was sentenced to serve two to eight years in prison Thursday based on his guilty pleas to lewd and lascivious conduct with a child and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

"Nobody in (the victim's) position ever deserves to be treated the way you treated her," Judge David Suntag told Drake in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division.

"You can't do that," Suntag said. "The impact is substantial. And you caused that."

Thursday's sentencing proceeding included testimony from the victim. The Reformer does not identify victims of sexual assault.

While acknowledging being "very, very nervous," she told Suntag that she is striving to "no longer be the victim of a rape crime, but to simply be the survivor of a rape crime."

She thanked her parents for supporting her. But she also said a girl in her early teens knows only how to love her family.

"What she does not know is how to love a man much older than her," the victim said. "No child ... should have to undergo these circumstances."

Drake, 39, had been accused by Brattleboro police of repeatedly sexually assaulting the victim. Police said they first had talked with her in 2010 after a sexual-abuse report had been filed with the Vermont Department of Children and Families.

The victim said Drake "lied to her and trapped her," and she felt "used and manipulated," police wrote in court documents.

Drake had faced charges including aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault of a victim less than 16 years old. But he disputed the most serious allegations.

"There has, from the outset, been a dispute as to the facts," defense attorney Richard Ammons said Thursday. "That's what's brought us to where we are today."

In his guilty plea, Drake admitted to just one sexual encounter with the victim. He also acknowledged giving her alcohol.

Windham County Deputy State's Attorney David Gartenstein said there has been "extensive consultation" with the victim's family regarding Drake's plea agreement.

Gartenstein also said he considered "litigation issues" related to the case, and he noted that the victim had a difficult time discussing particulars of the alleged assaults during her deposition.

"The state believes this is an appropriate sentence given the circumstances," Gartenstein said.

Ammons said his client "committed a crime, and he admitted to that crime."

"He intends to participate vigorously in his sex-offender treatment," Ammons said.

If that treatment is deemed successful, Drake could be released after serving the minimum two years of his sentence. Drake already has earned credit toward that sentence, as he's been incarcerated in Vermont since May 2012.

Getting him back to Vermont to face the assault charges, however, was more difficult than prosecutors would have preferred.

Drake already had been incarcerated in Florida in connection with an unrelated case, so the Vermont arrest warrant had been forwarded to officials there with the understanding that he would be released in April 2012.

But when local officials contacted Florida Department of Corrections around that time, they learned that Drake actually had been released months earlier.

The issue was quickly resolved, however: Drake was arrested and transferred to Vermont by Windham County Sheriff's deputies.

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