Donovan Drops Investigation Into Alleged Vermont Guard Assault | Off Message

Donovan Drops Investigation Into Alleged Vermont Guard Assault


Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan says he's dropped a short-lived inquiry into a five-year-old allegation of sexual assault in the Vermont National Guard.

Donovan's investigation stemmed from an anonymous letter that prompted a candidate for adjutant general to exit the ongoing race to lead the Vermont National Guard last week. The author of the letter wrote that she had been sexually assaulted by a senior Guard officer in December 2007 and claimed that Jonathan Farnham and another senior officer failed to report it to civilian law enforcement officials.

After Seven Days wrote about the episode, Donovan said last week that he hoped to contact the victim to determine whether she could provide more information about the alleged perpetrator — and whether she would cooperate with an investigation.

Donovan says he spoke to the woman over the weekend and found that she was not interested in revisiting the episode further.

"We had a good talk. While I think that a crime was most likely committed five and a half years ago, the victim expressed to me her desire not to go forward with any criminal prosecution," Donovan says. "Given that, we will not go forward."

Her unwillingness to cooperate, Donovan says, "would render an investigation extremely difficult to prove any allegation" — even if he were to subpoena records from the Vermont Guard of its own internal investigation of the incident.

"Even if you were able to get some information, you would still need real, live testimony from a victim at trial, because you'd be dealing with essentially hearsay if you were relying just on documents," he says.

Is Donovan concerned that the alleged perpetrator remains free and may still be serving in the Guard?

"My sense is, given the recent publicity of what occurred in the last few weeks, this individual knows who he is, and this publicity will likely be the best deterrent in him engaging in any future conduct."


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