Former state senator Norm McAllister ensnared a desperate woman into a forcible sexual relationship, and he all but confessed to his crimes in a recorded phone call, a prosecutor said during opening arguments in his sexual assault trial on Wednesday afternoon.
Deputy Franklin County State's Attorney John Lavoie said that McAllister targeted a woman who was desperate to live in a dilapidated trailer he owned and to work on his Highgate farm. She allowed him to take advantage of her for years, Lavoie said.
"Rape is not about sex," Lavoie told jurors in Franklin Superior Court. "It's about the rapist using sex to exercise power and control."
Lavoie devoted most of his opening argument to unveiling a 30-minute recording of McAllister speaking on the telephone with the alleged victim. On the recording, McAllister discusses, in often graphic detail, some of their sexual encounters.
"I started to feel like a prostitute," she tells him at one point.
"And that's what it turned into," McAllister replies.
As they listened, three female jurors occasionally lowered their heads, and their eyes appeared to redden. Lavoie told jurors he planned to replay the recording during the trial. McAllister's former attorney previously characterized the tape as "devastating" to the former Franklin County senator's case.
In his opening statement, McAllister's attorney, Bob Katims, attacked the credibility of the alleged victim. Katims said that she had previously admitted to lying to authorities during a long-running legal saga involving her abusive ex-husband and their children, whom the Department for Children and Families took away from her.
Her conduct in the McAllister case, Katims said, was no different.
Katims said she made up the allegations after her ex-husband discovered her sexual relationship with McAllister, which involved "hundreds of consensual sexual encounters ... where she is, for whatever the motivations, agreeing to the sex."
"Any claim that she is somehow putting up with inappropriate or unwanted sexual contact with Mr. McAllister because she absolutely, positively needs housing for her children is wrong," Katims said.
On the phone recording, Katims argued, McAllister "isn't confessing to sexually assaulting anybody — he is acknowledging the relationship."
Gregory J. Lamoureux/County Courier
Deputy Franklin County State's Attorney John Lavoie
McAllister, 65, faces one charge of sexual assault, which carries a maximum life sentence, and two misdemeanor counts of prohibited acts.
McAllister betrayed no emotion while listening to opening arguments, and occasionally peered at the jurors.
Earlier Wednesday, a jury of six men and six women, along with two male alternates, was finally selected. That followed three tedious days of screening roughly 100 Franklin County residents who had been summoned to the downtown St. Albans courthouse.
The case had appeared to be over in January, when McAllister agreed to plead no contest to reduced charges that carried a maximum seven-year sentence. But McAllister backed out of the plea deal, arguing that his attorneys had pressured him into it.
He hired a new lawyer, Katims.
McAllister's first trial, based on sexual assault claims from another alleged victim, ended in June 2016 after she admitted she lied under oath. Prosecutors said they had no choice but to drop the charges.