BRATTLEBORO -- A Wardsboro man on Friday admitted having sex with a minor on "multiple occasions," but he already has served his sentence.
Daniel S. Mager, 38, pleaded guilty to prohibited acts, a misdemeanor for which he was sentenced immediately to 11 to 12 months in prison. But Mager's substantial credit for time served allowed him to walk free from Windham Superior Court Criminal Division.
In exchange for the plea, prosecutors dismissed several felony counts that had been filed against Mager in January 2013. But Windham County Deputy State's Attorney David Gartenstein said that decision was for the sake of the victim, not for lack of evidence.
"This is a case involving a very vulnerable victim, and the state has needed to make a very difficult choice between a consequence for the conduct and the health, safety and welfare of that child," Gartenstein said.
"And based upon all the work that we've done, we have concluded that participation in significant court proceedings going forward creates a significant risk to the health, safety and welfare of that child."
Vermont State Police began an investigation into Mager's conduct in June 2012 when a juvenile and her mother reported sexual assaults. The girl, who was under 16, claimed she and Mager had sex "about 12 or 13 times" in spring of 2012, according to a court affidavit.
The Reformer does not identify victims of sexual assault.
Mager claimed there had been no physical contact with the girl aside from hugging, court documents say.
Investigators obtained a court order to take photographs showing scars in Mager's genital area, and police said those were consistent with statements made by the victim.
When asked about that, Mager told police he has pictures of those markings and speculated that the girl must have seen those photos without his knowledge, the affidavit says.
Mager initially had been charged with four felonies including repeated, aggravated sexual assault of a child, which carried a maximum life sentence. His decision to plead guilty to a lesser charge came more than 19 months after he had been arrested and after he already had served significant time in prison and under home detention.
Gartenstein noted that "one of the core principles of the criminal-justice system is the right to confrontation" through a suspect's cross-examination of an accuser. And he told Judge David Suntag that "the state had serious concerns about the costs to this child of proceeding through the rigors of trial."
"From the time that this case arrived at the state's attorney's office, the facts and circumstances of what occurred have been clear," Gartenstein said. "And the state hasn't had hesitation about its ability to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. But it's a case in which the victim is very, very vulnerable."
He read a brief statement submitted by the victim, who said she was "not satisfied" by the case's resolution.
"I know Dan has ‘served his time.' I feel that he hasn't shown that he understands what he did was wrong ... I feel he should continue to stay on house arrest until he shows continuous stabilization," the victim wrote. "I know that what I want will be way too much to ask for; however, I don't feel like the time he has served is enough for what he did."
Gartenstein said both the victim's mother and her legal guardian "were of the view that this was an appropriate disposition of this case." He also read into the record a statement from the girl's mother, who wrote that she "will never understand how an adult can sexually abuse a child."
"There never was a doubt in my mind that Dan was guilty. Why? Because I didn't raise my children to lie," the victim's mother wrote. "As you already know, Dan's actions have caused so much pain to (the victim), her family, to friends and community. Maybe not today or one year from now, but one day, (the victim) will be able to hold her head high and proud and realize that she was the child and Dan was the adult."
Given a chance to address the court, both Mager and his defense attorney, David Reid, declined. Suntag then accepted both the plea agreement and the recommended sentence while also noting the lack of comment from Mager and his attorney.
"I don't know what this means for your future or your attitude. I haven't heard anything," Suntag told Mager.
The judge added that, "clearly, any child -- it doesn't really matter where that child is coming from -- will suffer greatly when taken advantage of."
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275. Follow him on Twitter @MikeReformer.