The alleged victim in the sexual assault trial of former state senator Norm McAllister took the witness stand Thursday morning and said she agreed to a sex-for-rent scheme with him out of desperation.
Back in 2012, the woman testified, the Department for Children and Families had taken her children. She was living in a homeless shelter in St. Albans. To have any chance to get her kids back, she needed a job and a place to live, she testified. She answered a Craigslist ad for someone willing to live and work on a Highgate farm.
McAllister, who had taken out the ad, told her he had other applicants with more experience, she recalled.
She recounted the following conversation while on the witness stand in Franklin Superior Court: To land the job, she told McAllister she would be willing to do anything, including household chores, cooking meals or running errands.
"So, you're saying you'd be willing to do anything?" McAllister asked her.
"Yeah, anything," she said.
"No, I mean like ... anything?" he asked.
She assumed he meant sex, she testified. She saw no choice. She agreed.
"As a man, that’s what I like to hear," McAllister said.
Seven Days does not typically identify victims of alleged sex crimes.
The prosecution rested late in the afternoon after hearing from her and two police officers. McAllister's attorney is expected to call only one witness Friday morning. McAllister is not expected to take the stand. After closing arguments, the case will go the jury, likely by midday.
Gregory J. Lamoureux/County Courier
Judge Martin Maley
During the woman's testimony, prosecutors for the second time in as many days played the 30-minute recording of a phone call between her and McAllister.
At one point, she asks McAllister if he would promise not to engage in two specific sex acts that caused her a lot of pain.
"Would that be OK?" she asks.
He pauses to consider the request, then finally answers.
"I can think about it."
During his cross-examination of the woman, defense attorney Bob Katims recounted her extensive history of abuse at the hands of her ex-husband and tried to portray her as dishonest.
She admitted she once made false allegations that he had assaulted her in order to have him removed from their house.
"You repeated that lie four times?" Katims said. "You did it because you wanted to achieve a result. The result of [him] being removed from the home."
"Yes," she answered.
Katims also tried to punch holes in the alleged victim’s central claim — that she agreed to the relationship with McAllister to further her efforts to regain custody of her children.
She acknowledged that she allowed her ex-husband to see her and their 18-month old daughter, despite knowing that DCF had threatened to take the child if he had contact with them.
She remained composed throughout most of her testimony and offered consistent explanations for her actions.
McAllister, 65, could face a maximum of life in prison on a felony charge of sexual assault and two misdemeanor charges of prohibited acts. Earlier this year, McAllister agreed to plead no contest in the case, but backed out of his plea deal, claiming that his former attorneys pressured him into it.
The final prosecution witness was Vermont State Police Detective Sgt. Benjamin Katz, the lead investigator on the case.
Katz described coaching the alleged victim before the recorded phone call, and giving her talking points to get McAllister to incriminate himself and to build her confidence. At one point, Katz said, he played the role of McAllister in a mock conversation with her.
"We talked a lot about being calm and expecting to be extremely nervous during these calls and expecting the person who is accused to be confrontational," Katz said.
Earlier Thursday, Judge Martin Maley dismissed a female juror. The juror had made a passing remark on the previous day that she needed to take notes to help refresh her memory. Under follow-up questioning, she explained that she has lupus and struggles with memory loss, information that somehow didn't surface during a protracted jury draw. A male alternate was promoted to take her place.
The jury now consists of seven men and five women, with one male alternate.