As second trial begins, son lashes out
ST. ALBANS >> On the day of the primary in his re-election bid, on Aug. 9, state Sen. Norm McAllister is expected to be in court for the jury draw in the second of his two sexual assault trials stemming from charges filed last year.
The state dropped its charges against McAllister in the first trial last month after the primary witness, who alleged the Franklin County senator raped her repeatedly, told prosecutors she was not truthful about kissing another of McAllister's employees.
The second trial, which involves similar allegations from another woman, is scheduled for three days starting Aug. 10. McAllister's accuser in this case says he exploited her in a scheme to trade sex for work and lodging, spelled out in great detail in a separate civil lawsuit. That suit is on hold until the criminal case is resolved.
At trial in August, McAllister, 64, faces one felony count of sexual assault and two misdemeanor counts of prohibited acts. One of the misdemeanor charges stems from allegations he solicited sex from the mother-in-law of his accuser to pay her son's rent in a trailer McAllister owns. The mother-in-law died last year, but the state has not dropped that charge.
The felony charge carries a sentence of three years to life in prison and a $25,000 fine, while the misdemeanors carry a possible one-year sentence and $100 fine.
Assistant State's Attorney Diane Wheeler, who is handling the prosecution, said she did not believe the unexpected dismissal at the last trial, or the difficulty McAllister's previous accuser faced under cross examination, would affect this trial.
"It's a different case, different trial, different complainant," Wheeler said Monday after a status conference to set the trial dates.
Both McAllister and his defense team declined to answer questions about the upcoming trial after Monday's hearing. However, McAllister's son, Heath McAllister, gave a heated interview outside the courthouse, lashing out at the state's attorney, the media and his father's accusers.
Heath McAllister was scheduled to be a defense witness in the previous trial and is on the witness list for the defense in the upcoming trial.
The media downplayed the fact that one of his father's accusers admitted lying under oath, Heath McAllister said, adding that he believes the woman should be facing perjury charges. Wheeler has said she won't pursue perjury charges because the lie the young woman told was not material to the accusations of sexual abuse.
Heath McAllister said the allegations, and resulting media coverage, have taken a heavy toll on his father's reputation and hurt his finances. Norm McAllister was forced to sell a piece of property where his daughter lived, and where the McAllisters had long run a flower business, to pay for his legal defense.
"All for a lie that means nothing in the end. It didn't cost (the accuser) a dime to get it to this point, and you just let it go. What the hell kind of (precedent) does that set?" Heath McAllister said.
The director of a local victims advocacy nonprofit said she believes the accuser's allegations made in the first trial and that it's normal for people who have experienced trauma to make conflicting statements or have difficulty recalling details about their abuse.
The private attorney for the accuser in the first trial said her client told only one lie that she was aware of and that the accuser stood by her other allegations.
Heath McAllister said his father never sexually assaulted either accuser but acknowledged that Norm McAllister had sex with both women. The son called it consensual and said the women were now "trying to exploit it for their own gain."
Asked what the accusers stand to gain, Heath McAllister pointed to the lawsuit by the woman who will be the state's primary witness in the upcoming trial, which seeks monetary damages.
That woman was also trying to avoid paying rent and ensure her ex-husband could live with her in a trailer on Norm McAllister's property when the state's investigation began, according to Heath McAllister.
The woman, in her 40s, still lives in that trailer, Heath McAllister said, though Norm McAllister had sought to evict her, and his criminal defense team had suggested she was living out of state.
Asked to account for the other accuser's motivation, Heath McAllister suggested the two women were in cahoots, saying "these people are together."
Norm McAllister got involved in sexual relationships with his accusers because, after his wife died, "he was a lonely man" and "these were the people who were there," Heath McAllister said.
"You'd have to believe he went from a loving husband of 43 years to some kind of animal, and if you're the type of person that believes that, you're a special type of person in your own right," Heath McAllister said.
In the case where the charges were dropped, his father had a brief sexual relationship with the young woman, Heath McAllister said, and it occurred long after she stopped working for him.
"That's not a big deal. You want to be disgusted that she was 19 and he was 63, knock yourself for a loop," Heath McAllister said, suggesting if it were a young man and an older woman, there would not be an issue.
The state alleged that Norm McAllister held down and raped the young woman not long after she began working on his farm and before his wife died in 2013 — a pattern of abuse that allegedly lasted for close to two-and-a-half years.
Heath McAllister was more cagey about addressing the allegations in the second trial. But when asked about conversations investigators recorded in which Norm McAllister acknowledges forcing his accuser into a sex act, the son said the recordings were presented out of context in court documents.
"If you take it all completely out of context just for what it is, it sounds horrible. The reality is, if you've been drinking — even if you haven't been — you've had a relationship with somebody and you trust them and they start talking about different things — it wasn't the — that's just a small portion of the conversations that took place," Heath McAllister said.
"Did my dad talk like a pig? Sure. I don't know how many men — what the hell, I'm in the list," he said. "There's been moments where if you took what I said out of context, it would sound horrible."
Heath McAllister said that after watching his father suffer and the family name get dragged through the mud, he didn't want to remain silent any longer.
"You can't just shy away from this. You can't just wither up and die, because, to be honest with you, the McAllister name might not mean much to anyone else, but it sure as hell does to us," he said.
Morgan True is VTDigger's Burlington bureau chief covering the city and Chittenden County. He can be contacterdf at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @true_morgan.
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