By the time he took the woman’s phone call on Wednesday night, state Sen. Norm McAllister (R-Franklin) had known her for years, allowing her to live in a trailer he owned and to work at his farm, according to court documents. In exchange, she told authorities, she provided McAllister with sex.
He had noticed something, he told her during the conversation: When she performed oral sex on him, he did not feel as if she cared about him.
“I understand why you felt that way, but it was not much of a turn-on,” McAllister told her, in a conversation that police were secretly recording with her permission. He later added, “I knew I was forcing you to do something you didn’t want to do … I knew that you didn’t really want to do that.”
In Franklin Superior Court today, McAllister, 63, pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of sex assault and three misdemeanor counts of prohibited acts. Authorities say McAllister repeatedly coerced two women to engage in sex acts and pursued a third.
He’s a former House member currently serving his second term in the Senate. McAllister is a farmer whose wife of 42 years, Lena Mae McAllister, died in September 2013.
McAllister, who was arrested outside the Statehouse on Thursday afternoon, was released on $20,000 bail, and ordered to avoid contact with the alleged victims.
His attorney, Brooks McArthur, spoke briefly on his behalf outside the courthouse, and cautioned against jumping to conclusions. “We have a much different version of events,” McArthur said. “We urge people not to rush to judgment.”
McAllister, chased by reporters as he left the courthouse, declined to comment. Each sex assault charge carries a potential maximum sentence of life in prison, and could lead to registration as a sex offender.
Franklin County State’s Attorney Jim Hughes said investigators are trying to determine if there are other unidentified victims.
State police last night announced that McAllister would be charged with human trafficking. But Hughes said the alleged conduct did not fit the spirit of that law. It is not uncommon for prosecutors to file charges that are different from the charges police initially announce when they arrest someone.
The alleged crimes began in December 2012, according to state police affidavits, but came to light only on Monday, when an Enosburg woman came to police. She said that McAllister had propositioned her for sex in exchange for allowing her son, who was behind in rent, to continue to live in a trailer McAllister owns.
Police quickly found two other women who had similar stories and were willing to cooperate. Investigators recorded conversations between two of the women and McAllister to quickly build their case, court documents say.
Police affidavits unsealed today suggest that McAllister for years used his power over vulnerable women. Affidavits filed by Vermont State Police Detective Sgt. Benjamin Katz, Detective Trooper John MacCallum, and Detective Trooper Drew Cota give the following account.
In December 2012, a woman moved into a trailer home McAllister owned in Franklin and began working at his farm. From the beginning, he asked her for sexual favors in exchange for allowing her to keep her job and home, affidavits say. (As a general practice, Seven Days does not identify victims of alleged sex crimes.)
McAllister called or texted her several times a week looking for sex, she said. The encounters usually happened in his car or at their homes, according to the affidavits.
“I felt I had to do it to keep my housing,” she told police on Wednesday, according to the affidavit. “I made it pretty clear to Norm that I didn’t want to do it. I’m not sure that he ever really heard that… I told him that I felt exploited.”
McAllister also proposed transporting her to area farms so she could perform sex acts on “Mexican” farmhands. He proposed they split the proceeds. She refused.
Another woman who worked for McAllister at the farm and elsewhere said that shortly after she started working for him in 2013, he forced her to perform oral sex. It happened roughly 20 times since 2013, she told police.
They further engaged in sex that was “definitely not,” consensual another 10 or 11 times, she said, most recently in April inside McAllister’s Montpelier apartment.
“I was screaming no at him and he still, yes, he still went for it,” she told police.
The alleged pattern of coercion and intimidation continued right up until Monday, affidavits say, as McAllister tried to woo a third victim — the Enosburg woman whose son was behind on rent.
After initially voicing some reservations, she told McAllister she would meet him for sex. He advised her to “wear less clothes,” and avoid smoking, according to the affidavits. She promised to brush her teeth.
But then, on May 4, she cancelled on him. She went to authorities and told them that he made her feel scared and nervous. Police got her to call him again and recorded the conversation.
“I was worried,” the woman, sitting in a Vermont State Police barracks, told McAllister. “I said, ‘Oh my God, is he throwing my son out?’ I was scared, Norm.”
McAllister replied: “Well that’s going to depend on how willing you are to please me. How’s that? Are you willing?”
“I told you I would,” the woman said. “As long as it’s going to take care of my son. My son means a lot to me.”
“We’ll see how it happens,” McAllister answered.
“What’s in it for me?” she questioned him. She asked if McAllister could help her get out of a traffic ticket she had recently been issued.
“We can’t,” he said. “Guys get prosecuted for doing that type of shit.”