LaClaire asks for break on bail
BRATTLEBORO -- More than two months after Jodi LaClaire was convicted of stealing but acquitted of murder, she is scheduled to appear in court to ask for a significant reduction in her bail.
LaClaire has remained behind bars pending her sentencing on seven financial-exploitation charges. But, given that the 39-year-old was found innocent of killing an elderly Brattleboro woman in 2009, defense attorney Dan Sedon wants LaClaire's bail lowered from $150,000 to $10,000.
That might allow LaClaire to post bail and be freed from jail for the first time since January 2012. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Dec. 10 before Judge David Suntag in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division.
In a motion filed to request the bail-review hearing, Sedon argues that LaClaire's release would not jeopardize her appearance at future court proceedings.
"Ms. LaClaire has a track record with this court of faithfully appearing when ordered and has not failed to appear during any part of this case," Sedon wrote. "Additionally, Ms. LaClaire has followed all conditions of release faithfully and has not been accused of violating any of the court's conditions."
After a 13-day trial in September, a jury acquitted LaClaire, a former nursing assistant at Brattleboro's Thompson House, of killing 83-year-old Nita Lowery, a long-time resident of the care home.
Prosecutors had alleged that LaClaire injected Lowery with a fatal dose of insulin on the morning of March 23, 2009, plunging her into a hypoglycemic coma from which the elderly woman did not awake before her death nine days later. But the state's evidence of that crime was largely circumstantial, and LaClaire's defense attorneys argued successfully that there was no strong link between their client and the alleged injection.
LaClaire also was acquitted of one count of abuse of a vulnerable adult.
However, the same jury convicted LaClaire of stealing more than $3,000 by making unauthorized withdrawals from Lowery's USAA account at ATMs in Brattleboro and Keene, N.H.
LaClaire is scheduled for sentencing Jan. 10 on six counts of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult and one count of attempted financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult.
But at the bail hearing next week, her defense attorneys will argue that the crimes for which LaClaire has been convicted do not warrant the bail on which she is now held.
Sedon's motion recounts the case's timeline: LaClaire initially was charged in April 2011 with 16 financial-exploitation charges. On the day of her arraignment, she posted $10,000 bail and was released.
The murder charge was filed Jan. 17, 2012. At that point, the court raised bail to $150,000, "reasoning that the potential life sentence accompanying the charge of murder gave Ms. LaClaire some incentive to not appear at future hearings, despite her demonstrated track record to the contrary," Sedon wrote.
September's acquittal on the murder and abuse charges "should warrant a modification of the bail amount to the original $10,000," Sedon argues.
"Ms. LaClaire has no criminal record prior to these proceedings," he wrote. "Ms. LaClaire had a steady record of employment and perfect record of appearance before this court while free on bail. As for her conduct during the lengthy trial proceeding, Ms. LaClaire would maintain that she was appropriate and cooperative at all times and made every attempt to comply with the court's directions in that regard."
Sedon acknowledges that LaClaire's convictions on seven financial-exploitation counts "does affect the analysis in terms of bail."
"However, Ms. LaClaire points out that this is less than half the counts that were originally filed, for which the court felt $10,000 bail was appropriate at that time," he wrote.
That's a reference to the fact that the state withdrew some of the financial-exploitation charges prior to trial.
Prosecutors from the Vermont Attorney General's office did not file a written response to Sedon's bail motion and declined to comment in advance of the Dec. 10 hearing.
Suntag last month denied LaClaire's post-trial motion for a judgment of acquittal and her request for a new trial. She can appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.
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