Sex abuser seeks end to probation

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BRATTLEBORO — A former Bellows Falls psychologist who was convicted of sexually abusing one of his mentally-ill clients back in 2008, wants his probation to end so he and his fiance can have more of a social life.

Donald Sanborn III, 75, who now lives in Bradenton, Fla., has petitioned Windham Superior Court to lift his probation.

Sanborn served three years in jail after being convicted of the sexual abuse and Medicaid fraud for billing Medicaid for the therapy session.

He's been on probation in Florida ever since getting out of jail. Assistant Attorney General Steven Monde said the state believed Sanborn should remain on probation for another 10 years, until 2028, or 20 years from his sentencing.

Court records indicate Sanborn had sexual relations with a total of 13 of his clients, and had been sanctioned at least twice by state regulators.

He received a light sentence back in 2009, largely to spare his mentally-ill former client the stress of testifying at a trial, Monde told Judge Katherine Hayes Wednesday.

Sanborn, who completed sex offender programs in both Vermont and Florida, took the stand Wednesday afternoon, and said there was only one incident with the Windham County woman. He said the woman was the sexual aggressor in the incident, as had been his other clients.

Monde said former Windham Superior Court Judge Karen Carroll, who is now a justice on the Vermont Supreme Court, had specifically denounced Sanborn during his sentencing, noting he could have faced 25 years in jail for the offenses.

The Windham County woman, who did not attend Wednesday's motion hearing, is terrified of Sanborn and terrified he will come back to Vermont and hurt her, the woman's husband testified Wednesday.

He said his wife's mental illness of dissociative disorder, or multiple personality disorder, had worsened since they learned that Sanborn was trying to have his probation revoked. The husband said his wife had reverted to her childlike persona.

"Right now, she's a small girl who has a hard time getting through life," he said.

The woman sent a statement to the court, which was read by Amy Farr, the victim's advocate with the attorney general's office.

"He will come and get me," the woman wrote of Sanborn. She said that Sanborn was "an old dog, who can't be taught new tricks."

The woman was sexually abused as a child for years by a family member, Monde said.

According to the 2009 plea agreement, Sanborn is to remain on probation "until further order of the court."

Monde said under state law, release from such a probation must be "warranted by his conduct" and serve "the ends of justice."

Monde told the judge that his victim was still suffering, and deserved reassurance she would be protected from Sanborn, who at one time was a high-level martial arts practitioner.

Adam Waite, Sanborn's Brattleboro attorney, urged the judge to release Sanborn from probation, saying he had successfully completed his jail sentence and sex offender treatment programs. Sanborn is a registered sex offender.

He said Sanborn was now a frail, ill man, and had a myriad of medical problems, including a heart attack and prostate cancer, whose treatment left him essentially "chemically castrated."

Sanborn, and his fiance, Gail Beckwith, herself a former patient at his Bellows Falls practice, both said the daily curfew of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., restricted their social life, and that they wanted to go to "concerts, plays and musicals" which the curfew made impossible. Beckwith told the courtroom she too had an affair with Sanborn shortly after she saw him for therapy, and that she cut off their affair after five years after realizing he wasn't going to leave his wife. She said she initiated their current relationship after he got out of jail, telling the judge she realized she loved him.

The curfew, and the restriction that he remain in Manatee County in Florida, prevents him from building a new career as a writer, Sanborn said, when he took the stand on Wednesday.

Sanborn said he was writing books, and needed freedom from a curfew to visit writers conferences, bookstores and library events.

Monde confronted him on the stand with the fact that he had written a "pornographic story" about a therapist and his clients, which Sanborn admitted.

A Google search revealed Sanborn, who calls himself "Doc" Sanborn in publicity materials, had written and self-published books called "Escape from Xanadu: A Memoir of Survival, Adventure and Coming of Age," and that he was working on a third book, "Plebe: My Freshman Year at The Citadel: The Military College of South Carolina."

Judge Hayes took Sanborn's motion under advisement.

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

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