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McAllister Trial Begins: What We Know And What's To Come

Gregory J. Lamoureux
AP/POOL County Courier
The trial of state Sen. Norm McAllister, shown here at his arraignment on May 8, 2015, will begin Wednesday, June 15. On Vermont Edition, we recapped what has happened up to this point and look ahead to the trial.

State Senator Norm McAllister is set to stand trial Wednesday on charges that he coerced a young woman who worked for him to have nonconsensual sex on more than one occasion. A separate trial involving another woman who alleges sexual coercion in exchange for housing on McAllister's Franklin County farm will be held later this year. Vermont Press Bureau Chief Neal Goswami, who has been covering the McAllister story for the last year, joined Vermont Edition on Tuesday to recap what has already occurred up to this point.

McAllister's arrest last year

The story first broke more than a year ago, when McAllister was arrestedon the steps of the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier.

"This really took the Statehouse by surprise in May 2015 as lawmakers were trying to wrap up the end of the legislative session," Goswami says. "There were some state police officers that showed up at the Statehouse and apparently took Sen. McAllister into custody as he was outside on a cigarette break."

"Throughout the day and over the next couple of days, more and more details came out about the case that really left a lot of people shocked that somebody who served in the Legislature could be accused of such things," says Goswami.

The charges brought against McAllister

"There are three felony counts that he faces of sexual assault, and those carry three-year-to-life in prison jail terms," Goswami explains. "And then there are three misdemeanor counts of prohibited acts, which carry lesser jail times."

"He's accused of - or has been accused of - sexually assaulting three different women. One woman worked on his farm in Franklin County. Another worked as a legislative assistant, or intern, with him in Montpelier. And a third woman has since died, and that will not go to trial."

McAllister claims that he's innocent, pleading not guilty at his May 2015 arraignment to all charges brought against him. "He has rejected - apparently rejected - several plea deals offered by prosecutors and has been waiting for his court date, his trial date, so that he can clear his name," Goswami says.

The first trial set to begin

The first of the two trials begins Wednesday and involves the alleged victim who was a legislative intern; she was allegedly a teenager when the alleged incidents began occurring, says Goswami.

Jury selection began on Tuesday at the St. Albans courthouse. McAllister's lawyer has not tried to change the venue of the proceeding and the trial is expected to be somewhat brief.

"They believe that this trial will go Wednesday and Thursday, and be wrapped up this week," Goswami says. "I suppose it all depends on what transpires during the trial and what the witnesses have to say."

As far as the second trial, Goswami says a date will be set after the first one concludes.

Who may be testifying

"The alleged victim in this first trial - the legislative assistant - has said very little to the media," Goswami says, but the alleged victim was interviewed by Paul Heintz for Seven Days. "We will hear her take on what transpired between her and the senator this week when she is expected to take the stand."

Other lawmakers are expected to testify in at least one of the trials. Sen. Kevin Mullin from Rutland and Rep. Timothy Corcoran from Bennington both shared a Montpelier apartment with McAllister and are expected to testify in this upcoming case, Goswami says. This is partly because the alleged victim in this case stayed with McAllister at that apartment during the legislative session.

Another lawmaker who may possibly take the stand is Rep. Corey Parent from St. Albans, who Goswami explains apparently gave some rides to and from the Statehouse to the alleged victim.

McAllister's political future

In January, McAllister was suspended by the Senate, but still seems to be looking toward his political future.

“We know that he believes that  he is innocent and he has planned to fight this case in court,” Goswami says. “He has filed for reelection, and he has said, if the trial comes out the way he believes it will and believes it should, he is ready to seek reelection.”

Patti is an integral part of VPR's news effort and part of the team that created Vermont Edition. As executive producer, Patti supervises the team that puts Vermont Edition on the air every day, working with producers to select and research show ideas, select guests and develop the sound and tone of the program.
Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
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