Former Retreat employee sentenced for sex assault

Brattleboro resident Robert Havens appeared with his attorney Bettina Buehler in Windham County Superior Court, Criminal Division, on Oct. 4, 2017, for charges of sexual assault, lewd and lascivious conduct with a child, kidnapping, and unlawful restraint.

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BRATTLEBORO — A former Brattleboro Retreat mental health worker was sentenced to four to 15 years in prison for sexually assaulting a patient at the Retreat in 2017.

Robert Havens, 49, of Brattleboro, will be eligible for release from prison in January 2022, according to court documents. Havens pleaded guilty to three charges in connection with the patient, who he continued to see once the girl was released from the Retreat. After leaving the Retreat, the girl had attended a special school in Massachusetts, and then later told her mother about Havens, triggering the criminal investigation and Havens' arrest in October 2017.

Havens pleaded guilty this past October.

The Retreat suspended Havens when the charges first surfaced and then conducted its own investigation into the case.

According to court records, Havens and the patient had a sexual relationship for two months before she was discharged from the private psychiatric hospital, and Havens continued the relationship for another four months.

According to court documents, Havens and the girl lied to the girl's mother, and Havens posed as the father of a friend of the girl so they could continue to see each other. The girl's mother told court officials that it was several months before her daughter realized she had been victimized by the Retreat worker, and that she initially felt responsible for Havens' criminal charges, and then started feeling afraid of him. Havens drove to the girl's home in northern Vermont to pick her up to visit his imaginary daughter, who was supposedly a fellow patient of the girl's at the Retreat.

But the mother told investigators that while Havens never came to her door to pick up her daughter, she later recognized him as someone who was working at the Retreat, once police showed her a photograph of Havens during the investigation.

At the time of the sexual assault and other sex charges, the girl was 15 years old, according to the plea agreement in the case. Havens also pleaded guilty to lewd and lascivious conduction with a child, and received a concurrent four to 15-year sentence.

He also pleaded guilty to a charge of obstruction of justice, and received another concurrent charge of two to five years.

Havens was given credit for 329 days he already served following his arrest in January after he contacted the girl. Prosecutors said Havens was trying to intimidate her and convince her not to testify against him.

Windham Superior Court Judge John Treadwell said it wasn't clear to him that Havens had taken responsibility for his behavior.

Windham County Deputy State's Attorney David Gartenstein had said earlier that his office entered into a plea agreement in order to spare the girl having to testify or be questioned by Havens' attorney.

Havens had previously worked at the Winston Prouty Center, court records stated. As a condition of the plea agreement Havens must undergo treatment and register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Two related charges of unlawful restraint and kidnapping were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 154.

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