Norm McAllister with his legal team during jury selection at court in St. Albans Tuesday
The day after, the deal apparently didn’t look so good.
Former state senator Norm McAllister told WPTZ-TV Wednesday morning that he might withdraw from the plea agreement he consented to late Tuesday, on the eve of his second trial for sexual assault.
The Highgate farmer told WPTZ’s Stewart Ledbetter that he might get new lawyers, WPTZ reported.
McAllister pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor prohibited acts charges related to an alleged sex-for-rent scheme, and also pleaded no contest to a felony lewd and lascivious charge that was amended down from sexual assault.
The alleged victim in all three counts is a former farmhand and tenant who lived in a trailer on McAllister’s property.
As a result of his plea, he could serve up to seven years — less than the potential life sentence maximum on a sexual assault conviction. He’s free pending sentencing, which was not scheduled.
He did not respond Wednesday to a message left by Seven Days, nor did his Burlington defense attorneys, Brooks McArthur and David Williams. Franklin County State’s Attorney Jim Hughes did not respond to questions from Seven Days, but told WPTZ that the state had a strong case against McAllister and that he had not been informed of a motion to withdraw the plea.
Attorneys familiar with Vermont criminal law say defendants occasionally seek to withdraw from plea agreements, and sometimes the court agrees. “It’s not unheard of,” said Bud Allen, a Burlington criminal defense lawyer and former Vermont defender general.
“Speaking in general terms, sometimes people have told friends and family that they are innocent and then have a hard time explaining why they took a plea agreement afterwards,” Allen said.
McAllister is out on bail and has not been sentenced. It’s generally easier to withdraw from a plea agreement in Vermont when that’s the case, as detailed in the Vermont Rules of Criminal Procedure.
They state that: “If the motion is made before sentence is imposed or deferred, the court may permit withdrawal of the plea if the defendant shows any fair and just reason and that reason substantially outweighs any prejudice which would result to the state from the withdrawal of the plea.”
The standard is higher after sentencing under the rule, which says at that point the court can permit withdrawal from a plea agreement “only to correct manifest injustice.”
The charges against McAllister were filed in 2015 and originally involved three women, including his statehouse intern. The prosecution dropped the case involving her after the alleged victim admitted she lied in answering a tangential question on the stand during a separate trial last year.
A charge involving the third woman has also been dropped, since she died of natural causes last year.