BRATTLEBORO -- A Brattleboro man is due to be released from prison after pleading guilty to two felony charges.
Gary C. Stroud, 50, has been held without bail since his arrest in April 2013 after police received a report of a woman who claimed she had been beaten and sexually assaulted in her apartment.
But Stroud has pleaded guilty to different, lesser charges, and a majority of the three- to eight-year prison sentence he received on Thursday is suspended in favor of probation.
Stroud risks further jail time if he does not abide by the restrictions of that probation, which include counseling and sex-offender conditions.
"The conditions of probation are very tight," Judge David Suntag told Stroud in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division. "So it's not like there's a lot of room to mismanage your life."
Brattleboro police responded on April 26 to a woman who said Stroud had entered her residence -- from which he had been barred by a no-trespass order -- earlier that day.
The victim said Stroud sexually assaulted her and hit her on the head with her cordless phone, according to a police affidavit filed at the time.
Stroud acknowledged sexual contact but claimed it was consensual, while also contending that the victim had "threatened to 'set him up,'" police said immediately after the arrest.
Stroud eventually pleaded guilty to second-degree aggravated domestic assault and felony lewd and lascivious conduct. The latter count was amended from a felony sexual-assault charge that initially had been filed.
The plea agreement called for the Windham County State's Attorney's office to dismiss counts including unlawful trespass, interference with access to emergency services, first-degree aggravated domestic assault, domestic assault and stalking.
As Stroud's sentencing began on Thursday morning, Suntag noted that the initial description of the alleged offense "suggests a course of conduct that would warrant a much greater response" -- meaning a harsher sentence.
Windham County Deputy State's Attorney Ashley Harriman said the assault was "a very traumatic event" for the victim, who "wishes that the defendant would spend the rest of his life in jail."
But Harriman said issues that arose during depositions in the case, along with the victim's relocation and other factors, led prosecutors to seek a plea deal. The plea, she said, "is likely where we would have ended up" as a result of a trial.
Defense attorney Chris Montgomery also urged Suntag to accept the plea agreement. Montgomery said Stroud had been involved in the community before his arrest; had been "actively engaged" in prison programming since his arrest; and still has "some really strong support groups."
But Stroud also is acknowledging the assault.
"He said, 'I want to take responsibility for what I did,'" Montgomery said. "He was clear about that."
Stroud previously had been convicted of violating an abuse-prevention order, and Montgomery said "there does seem to be a pattern in terms of relationships" and his client's behavior.
"He understands that," Montgomery said. "The program that he is going to do is going to address a lot of those things."
Stroud also stood and offered a short statement, apologizing for his actions.
Suntag accepted the plea agreement, imposing the recommended sentence of three to eight years of prison time that is all suspended except for 10 months. Stroud already has served more than 10 months in connection with this case.
He also must serve eight years of probation.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.