BRATTLEBORO -- A Marlboro man has one more chance to get his life back on track, but if he fails to do so, said Vermont Superior Court Windham Criminal Division Judge John Wesley, he could find himself back in prison.
"If you remain incapable of abiding by the conditions of your probation, quite likely the string will have run out," Wesley told John Galanes, who was in court being sentenced for violating his conditions of release. "If that happens, it will be on your shoulders,"
Galanes has been on indefinite probation since he was released from prison on May 4, 2010, after serving nearly 15 months as a result of pleading guilty to a domestic assault that occurred in 2009.
On Wednesday, Melissa Barton, his probation officer, told Wesley that Galanes should be sentenced to an additional three months in prison for violations of probation that were "a continuation of behaviors of his original offense."
Barton told the court that Galanes has continued to engage in relationships that constitute a risk to his rehabilitation and has been less than forthright in his dealings with her. In addition, said Barton, Galanes had been engaging in a relationship that put himself and minor children in "sexual risk of harm."
"Mr. Galanes had admitted (his partner) was having issues with alcohol abuse but did not discontinue the relationship or remove her from his property," she said.
Barton said three months in prison would give Galanes "the time to reflect on what has transpired."
Between the time he was charged with the violations of probation in April and his court date, admitted Barton, Galanes has not been cited for any other infractions. But, she said, there have been "difficulties" with his interactions with Department of Corrections personnel, including leaving "a veiled threat" on her voice mail directed at the victim of his 2009 offense.
"And his presentation while in probation appointments is intimidating," she said.
Tom Costello, Galanes’ attorney, told the court that his client has turned his life around since the violations and warned that his incarceration would have a detrimental effect on his two children. And during cross-examination, Costello got Barton to admit that while she was concerned about his behavior, she didn’t believe he was a threat to the community.
Costello called Frances Marbury, Marlboro Elementary’s principal, to the stand to tell the court about Galanes’ relationship to his children.
"My observations have been that John has the best intentions around being a good parent and he has followed through on that from the perspective of the school," said Marbury.
Costello also called to the stand the mother of his two children who said that while her relationship with her ex-husband has been "challenging" since their divorce, it has been getting better.
She also told the court that Galanes was best positioned to meet the needs of their children and worried what would happen to them if he was sent to prison for three months.
Galanes’ ex-wife is the person who reported his infractions to his probation officer, but she said she had no idea her phone call would result in them sitting in court discussing whether he should be sent back to prison.
"I was concerned about (his partner) and wanted the situation rectified," she said. "Sending him to jail will not rectify it."
She added that since Galanes had discontinued his most recent relationship, she has had no concerns about his behavior.
During cross-examination, Windham County State’s Attorney Tracy Shriver asked Galanes’ ex-wife if she felt he was using her concern for their children to influence her testimony. But his ex-wife said that while she may have felt that way in May, she no longer believed that to be true, adding she didn’t think her ex-husband was at risk to once again commit domestic violence.
During summation, Shriver told the court it was important to send a message to Galanes that his behavior is not acceptable and the best way to send that message was to send him back to jail for 90 days.
But Costello insisted his client has learned his lesson, is seeing a counselor and is taking medication for attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. Instead of sending him back to prison, Costello suggested the court order him to perform 25 days on a work crew, because sending his client back to prison would devastate his children.
"They would be unnecessary casualties."
When Galanes had a chance to address the court, he told Wesley he has made positive changes in his life since he was charged with violating the conditions of his probation.
He also said taking daily medication for ADHD has made his life "smoother," helped him to control his impulsivity and reduced his aggravation and his sense of entitlement.
"I am seeing things a lot more clearly," said Galanes.
Even though Wesley said he wasn’t "so persuaded" by Galanes’ allocution nor by some of the defense’s arguments, he declined to impose jail time on Galanes or even order him on to a work crew. Nonetheless, Wesley expressed his dismay over Galanes’ behavior that put his relationship with his children in harm’s way.
"How could you have exposed your children to the possibility you might go to jail?" he asked.
But he was also critical of the state’s case presentation.
"I don’t put much weight on Melissa Barton’s testimony," said Wesley, and wondered why the facilitator of Galanes’ group therapy sessions wasn’t called to the stand. A critical component of cognitive changes is how a person behaves in a sex offenders group, said Wesley, but the court didn’t have a chance to evaluate that perspective of Galanes’ rehabilitation.
Wesley also said he was impressed by Galanes’ dedication to his children but felt it necessary to impose additional conditions of probation on top of those imposed when he was released from prison.
Conditions include that he inform his probation officer of any romantic relationships he plans to engage in and inform any potential partners of his past behavior. In addition, his probation officer has the authority to restrict who he has relationships with. Galanes must also allow the Department of Corrections to search his person or home if it has a reasonable suspicion to believe he has violated his the conditions of his probation.
Bob Audette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.