McAllister’s Statehouse ‘Assistant’ Alleges She Was 16 or Younger When First Assaulted | Off Message

McAllister’s Statehouse ‘Assistant’ Alleges She Was 16 or Younger When First Assaulted


Sen. Norm McAllister pleads not guilty Friday in Franklin Superior Court. - FILE: GREGORY J. LAMOUREUX, COUNTY COURIER
  • File: Gregory J. Lamoureux, County Courier
  • Sen. Norm McAllister pleads not guilty Friday in Franklin Superior Court.
A woman who worked for Sen. Norm McAllister (R-Franklin) at the Vermont Statehouse said he sexually assaulted her at the Montpelier apartment he shared with two other state legislators.

The woman, now 20, told Seven Days McAllister first assaulted her when she was 15 or 16 years old and employed on his Franklin goat farm. The attacks continued over the years, the woman said, as she worked as his house cleaner, on his reelection campaign and as his “assistant” at the Statehouse earlier this year.

McAllister’s legislative colleagues said they knew the woman stayed with him at the Terrace Street apartment, but had no reason to suspect he may have victimized her there.

Some details of her allegations are outlined in a three-page affidavit signed Thursday by Vermont State Police Detective Drew Cota. After another alleged victim identified the woman to police, she agreed to speak to Cota and Detective Maurice Lamothe Thursday in a 25-minute, recorded interview in a cruiser outside her home.

The woman agreed to share further information with Seven Days on the condition that her name be withheld. As a general practice, Seven Days does not identify alleged victims of sex crimes.

McAllister, a two-term senator and former five-term House member, was arrested late Thursday outside the Statehouse and later released on $20,000 bail.

On Friday, he pleaded not guilty in Franklin Superior Court to three felony counts of sexual assault, two of which related to the woman in question, and to three misdemeanor counts of prohibited acts. In total, at least three women have alleged wrongdoing to the police.

McAllister’s attorney, Brooks McArthur, declined to comment for this story. In brief remarks Friday outside the courthouse in St. Albans, he said his client had “a much different version of events.”

“We urge people not to rush to judgment,” he said.

According to Cota’s sworn affidavit, the woman said McAllister first assaulted her after she “graduated” — presumably from high school — in 2013 and went to work on his farm. She would have been 18 years old at the time. The affidavit describes an incident that allegedly took place shortly after she took the job in which she “was forced to perform oral sex on McAllister in a barn on his property.”

But in interviews with Seven Days on Friday and Saturday, the woman said the incident may have occurred as early as spring 2010, when she was in 9th grade, or possibly the following year.

“I really want to say 16. I’m not sure if I was 15 or not,” she said, referring to her age at the time. “I think I just turned 16 when I started working for him.”

She said McAllister, 63, was aware of her age at the time. The statutory age of consent in Vermont is 16.

The woman told Seven Days she was definitely not 18 and had not yet graduated from high school. She said she related the same information to the police, but that they may have misunderstood her.

Vermont State Police spokesman Scott Waterman said the agency could not comment on the case and referred questions to Franklin County State’s Attorney Jim Hughes. He did not respond to a request for comment Sunday.

After the first incident in McAllister’s barn, the woman said, he forced her to have sexual intercourse with him “a little less than 20” times over the years.

First elected in 2002, McAllister was serving in the Vermont House in 2010 and 2011. He was elected to the Senate in 2012. His wife of 42 years, Lena Mae McAllister, died in September 2013. They have three children and six grandchildren.

According to the affidavit, the woman said she “milked the goats and cleaned his residence for McAllister” and “was later hired to go to Montpelier to work for him there.” The woman told Seven Days that she also spent three or four weeks last summer working to reelect him to the Senate and to elect his fellow Franklin County Republican, Dustin Degree.

“I helped them campaign in the summer when they were campaigning door to door with the little things to hang up on the doorknob,” she said.

Degree, a former House member who was elected to his first Senate term last November, confirmed that the woman “was an intern” for McAllister and “helped out with Norm’s campaign.”

Degree added, “I didn’t hire her. I didn’t pay. I didn’t do anything like that. I don’t know. I didn’t have the agreement with her.”

According to the woman, McAllister approached her over the winter and asked if she would join him at the Statehouse.

“He said there was an opening in Montpelier, and he wanted to know if I wanted to try it out and work for him,” she told Seven Days. “That’s how I started working for him up there.”

Rank-and-file state legislators such as McAllister don’t receive funding for staff or interns, according to Senate Secretary John Bloomer. There is no formal internship program. Though the practice is relatively rare, some legislators independently arrange for paid assistance and finance it themselves.

The woman told Seven Days that McAllister paid her $200 a week in cash for her work in Montpelier.

“I went and got his mail,” she said. “I checked his email for him, wrote down anything he needed. I was kind of his assistant.”

The woman agreed to go back to work for McAllister even though he had previously assaulted her, she said, “because I didn’t have a job and I needed the money.”

“I figured that he was done trying to get a hold of me, so I figured I’d try to work back again,” she said.

Several state legislators said they knew the woman.

Sen. Peg Flory (R-Rutland) said she “introduced herself as an intern for Norm” and attended meetings of the Republican caucus and the Senate Committee on Institutions. Flory said the woman also attended social gatherings at the Capitol Plaza Hotel “once or twice, maybe” with other legislators.

“I do remember asking, ‘How old are you?’ Because she looked like she was 12,” Flory said. “I never suspected that it was — she seemed to get along well with [McAllister]. I never got a feeling of her being afraid of him or intimidated. I just didn’t.”

But the woman said that soon after she joined McAllister in Montpelier, it became clear that he intended to resume assaulting her.

“At first I thought he just wanted me to work at the Statehouse,” she said. “But when I started working for him again and he started making moves on me, I thought he was trying to take advantage of me in a way.”

The woman said McAllister raped her “every time I went down there … just about.”

“Whenever we got done working [at the Statehouse], we went back to the house,” she said, referring to the Terrace Street apartment. “That was when he would try.”

The police affidavit describes several violent, nonconsensual sexual encounters, the last of which took place approximately five weeks ago “in his apartment in Montpelier.”

McAllister shared the three-bedroom apartment with Sen. Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland) and Rep. Timothy Corcoran (D-Bennington) from January through the end of April, when they let the lease expire because the legislative session was drawing to a close. Legislators often room together in Montpelier and are reimbursed $110 for every night they stay in the capital.

The woman said the assaults took place in McAllister’s bedroom at the Terrace Street home. She said she slept on a couch in the living room.

According to Mullin, “She did stay over at the house a few times,” as did a young man who interned for Degree. Asked where she slept, Mullin said, “In the basement, besides Tim’s room, there was a bed down there, and I assume that’s where she slept.”

Mullin said he never saw or heard anything that would lead him to believe McAllister assaulted the woman.

“No,” he said. “Unless it happened on a weekend.”

The woman said McAllister would pick her up Sunday nights and drive her to Montpelier. They would work together for three days and then he would drive her home Wednesday nights, she said.

The legislature typically meets from Tuesday through Friday. Mullin said he usually arrived in Montpelier Tuesday mornings, while Corcoran arrived Monday evenings.

In an interview Friday, Corcoran confirmed he lived with McAllister and Mullin but declined further comment.

Mullin described the woman as “a little girl” who “looked like she was about 13.”

“She claims she was 20, though,” Mullin said.

The woman said she was not assaulted by anybody else in Montpelier. Asked if she thought Mullin or Corcoran was aware of the alleged incidents, the woman said, “I’m not sure. I don’t know, to be honest with you.”

The woman said she worked for McAllister in Montpelier “for several months” this winter, but quit showing up approximately a month ago, “because I didn’t really want to be around him.”

After a brief illness kept her out of work, she said, she “kept making up excuses” so that she did not have to return to Montpelier.

“I didn’t really tell him I quit,” she said. “I just stopped going up there because I didn’t want to face it.”

Mullin confirmed that the woman stopped showing up “a month or two ago.”

“He told me that she was not feeling good,” Mullin said, referring to McAllister. “And then he said that she got another job.”

The woman described McAllister as “nice” when he was around other people, but “aggressive” when they were alone.

“To me, he was always, like, pushing on to things,” she said. “I don’t really know how to describe him. I always felt uncomfortable around him. But I don’t really have too many words for him.”