BRATTLEBORO -- A third defendant implicated in a sexual assault on a minor last year in Wilmington has been sentenced to deferred jail time.
The sentence that Codie Johnson, 20, of Whitingham, received Tuesday in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division means he can avoid spending time behind bars and eventually can have two felony convictions expunged from his record if he complies with probationary conditions for five years.
Johnson is the final defendant to be sentenced in connection with the case, with 21-year-old Jonathan Deblois of Readsboro and 27-year-old Dennis Pike of Wilmington having received the same penalties for their guilty pleas.
"The plea agreements with respect to all three defendants mirrored one another. The sentences were the same, and the conditions of probation were the same," said David Gartenstein, Windham County deputy state's attorney. "The state has previously put on the record that the circumstances here created, the state believes, significant risk of harm to this child."
Police had arrested the men after receiving a complaint that they had participated in a group sexual assault on the victim July 22 in Pike's apartment. The defendants claimed the sex was consensual, and said they believed the girl was 18.
Johnson, whose voice shook with emotion as he addressed Judge David Suntag on Tuesday, said he, Deblois and Pike "felt awful and disgusted with ourselves" when they realized that the girl was under 16 and could not legally give consent for sex.
"I knew I had done wrong but had never intended to," Johnson told the judge.
Police said drinking exacerbated the situation, with Deblois and Pike admitting to buying alcohol for the victim. At one point, an affidavit says, "Pike believed (the victim) was losing her balance because of her intoxication level, which was believed to be high."
Pike and Deblois each pleaded guilty to felony sexual assault on a minor and misdemeanor counts of prohibited acts and furnishing alcohol to a minor. There was a different set of facts involved in Deblois' plea, as he admitted to having sexual contact with the victim in Brattleboro several days before the Wilmington incident.
Johnson pleaded to two counts of felony sexual assault on a minor and one misdemeanor count of prohibited acts.
The pleas, which were formally accepted by Suntag at each man's sentencing, call for a deferred prison sentence and five years of probation on the felonies.
Cooperation with probation officers is "extraordinarily important, because at the end of that, you'll be able to have felonies removed from your record," Suntag told Johnson on Tuesday.
The misdemeanor sentences carry a concurrent probationary term, and those convictions will remain on each man's record.
In his statement just prior to Suntag's imposition of the sentence, Johnson recounted his childhood, his schooling and his recent training to become a mechanic.
"I want to change my lifestyle and still be able to be at home with my family, rather than behind bars," Johnson said. "I am willing to follow any rules, laws or probation regulations needed in order to not lose the positive things I have going for me at this current time. With all this said, I am truly sorry and remorseful for the things I have done. I would like the chance to prove myself and become a better person."
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.