Sergeant Accused of Sexual Assaults Remains in Vermont Guard Despite Criminal Record | Crime | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Sergeant Accused of Sexual Assaults Remains in Vermont Guard Despite Criminal Record

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Daniel Blodgett - COURTESY OF VERMONT STATE POLICE
  • Courtesy Of Vermont State Police
  • Daniel Blodgett

Editor's note: This story contains descriptions of alleged sexual abuse.

After a night out in January, Jane Williams woke up disoriented, her rectum and vagina sore. Her new housemate was sleeping naked in bed beside her.

She started to piece together the fuzzy details of the previous night. She and Daniel Blodgett, a friend whom she'd let live in her home during a rough patch, had gone out for dinner and drinks. He'd done cocaine and tried to convince her to do some, though she'd declined repeatedly, according to court documents. He'd also propositioned her for sex, something she'd also repeatedly rejected.

But when they got home, Blodgett accosted her as she got ready for bed. Williams had taken an Ambien, and after he shoved a finger laden with cocaine in her mouth, she blacked out. Williams, a pseudonym Seven Days is using because she is an alleged victim of sex crimes, later told police that Blodgett said they'd had sex and that he'd taken revealing photos of her. He apologized, then later denied it had happened.

That morning, Williams broke down. She went to a hospital for a rape examination. On February 10, Blodgett was charged with voyeurism and sexual assault involving drug impairment. He pleaded not guilty.

"The information provided by the victim was credible and, in fact, appears to be part of a pattern," Det. Sgt. Mark Lauer, a special investigator in the Franklin County Sheriff's Office, told Seven Days.

That alleged pattern came into clearer focus last week. Blodgett was charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault and two counts of aggravated domestic assault stemming from incidents in 2015, 2017 and 2018. According to the sheriff's office, more than one woman had come forward to accuse Blodgett of physical and sexual abuse. One said that he'd forced her to consume alcohol, then burned her with a cigarette and threw a beer can at her face during rough and painful sex that she did not consent to.

"It is terrifying having Dan around," the woman told police.

Despite these recent charges and a long rap sheet that includes at least eight misdemeanor criminal convictions, Blodgett remains a soldier in the Vermont National Guard, which he joined about 15 years ago. His lawbreaking started around the same time.

While he's successfully had felony charges reduced to less serious ones, Blodgett's been found guilty of crimes that could have led to serious punishment, according to military policy. His guilt in cases involving violent misconduct, for instance, restrict him from possessing a firearm as a civilian — something Guard officials admit should have led to his discharge.

In written answers and interviews, Guard officials said privacy statutes prevent them from detailing what punishments, if any, Blodgett has received for his civilian crimes. They further suggested that they never knew the full picture, in large part because the Guard relies on members to self-report their own criminal charges.

Yet Blodgett's misdeeds are publicly available in court documents; a few have been serious enough to warrant substantial media coverage. Additionally, two of the women he allegedly abused have served in the Guard. One is Williams, who is now separating from the military after 12 years of service. In an interview, she described a culture of sexual harassment, an experience shared by other Guard members who spoke to this reporter as part of a 2018 series on misogyny and misconduct in the ranks.

Seven Days is identifying the other former Guard member only by her first name, Meredith. She contends that Blodgett's bad behavior was well-known by his supervisors. "He has a history of abuse. This is a pattern, not a one-off," Meredith said. "Why did the Guard keep protecting him?"

Seven Days reviewed hundreds of police and court documents and spoke to three of Blodgett's former romantic partners, including Meredith; each has a daughter with him. They all portrayed Blodgett as a reckless individual who uses drugs, violence and fear as tools of control.

"I've been blown off in court as the jealous ex picking on the poor veteran, and I've watched the Guard protect him through multiple charges," said Amanda Quiser, who fought a lengthy battle to secure sole custody of their daughter despite court-documented allegations of Blodgett's brutality. "It never really felt like anyone was going to be an ally of mine. They were out for Dan's best interests."

"It really upsets me how much we've all struggled to protect our daughters," said a second former partner, Meghan Halpin. "It's there on paper, in black and white: This man is dangerous. Why are people telling us he's not?"

In one criminal affidavit, his parole officer told cops that "Blodgett is known to boast that all of his friends are corrections officers, all of whom work at Northwest [State] Correctional Center in St. Albans." He's currently being held without bail at that prison.

Contacted by phone before his latest arrest, Blodgett declined to comment for this story.

In an interview, Adj. Gen. Greg Knight acknowledged a long-standing "gap" between Vermont police and the Guard. He said that the appointment of two law enforcement officials — Jessica Norris of the Burlington Police Department and Kenneth Hawkins, a part-timer with the Middlebury Police Department, who are respectively a major and a master sergeant in the Guard — in new provost marshal roles would improve communication and accountability.

These part-time officials started their work in early March and are aware of Blodgett's charges; they also know of other Guard members who are either facing charges or were recently convicted.

The Guard wouldn't release data on soldiers discharged for criminal conduct. But Knight vowed to be more transparent in the future. He plans to search the National Crime Information Center database for Guard members and will urge Vermont police chiefs to report soldiers' arrests, and relevant info, to the provost marshals.

While Knight could not speak specifically about Blodgett's history, he expressed broad concern over "aberrant actors" who've escaped notice in "the tall grass." "My job," Knight pledged, "is to mow the grass and make sure these people can't hide anymore."

Blodgett enlisted part time in the Guard in 2006. His Facebook page features photos of him in uniform, including at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan. "When I met him, he boasted about being a Guard member and serving his country," recalled Halpin. "He's handsome and so good at talking anyone into anything. But it's all manipulation; you get trapped in it."

He also has a history of being violent with women, usually while intoxicated, law enforcement documents show.

Colchester police arrested him in October 2007 and charged him with domestic assault for pushing Meredith, then eight months pregnant, to the ground. She told police that Blodgett was abusive and showed them numerous bruises on her body. Despite video evidence of the attack, Blodgett was convicted of a relatively minor misdemeanor — disorderly conduct involving a fight — and placed on probation.

In 2009, he was promoted to sergeant. That same year, Blodgett filed a legal motion to have the 2007 conviction reduced so it wouldn't "jeopardize his military career," the Burlington Free Press reported. Guard policy prohibits anyone convicted of a crime involving violence from carrying a weapon, which would have prevented him from being deployed to Afghanistan.

A prosecutor agreed to downgrade the conviction to disorderly conduct involving "noise"; a judge, Geoffrey Crawford, signed off on it. In 2010, Blodgett was deployed to the Middle East.

Meredith said the court never contacted her about the motion. "When I found out about it, I was confused about how such a serious charge could be modified without the victim being notified," she said.

Adj. Gen. Greg Knight - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-brodeur
  • Adj. Gen. Greg Knight

Not long after Blodgett returned from Afghanistan, Vermont State Police responded to a call of a citizen's dispute in Georgia involving Blodgett and Quiser.

Quiser told police that they'd been in a quarrel but downplayed its seriousness. She told Seven Days that, in truth, she was afraid to tell the police the full story, as Blodgett had largely isolated her from friends and family. "I knew if I pressed charges, I wouldn't have anywhere to go, and I didn't know how he'd react," she said.

Blodgett was hit with a DUI for trying to leave the scene as cops arrived; he later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, was ordered to complete a community reparative program and was fined $200, which he initially paid off with a bad check.

He made the front page of the Free Press in 2012, when the Transportation Security Administration found a loaded .22-caliber handgun in his luggage. He was headed to Wisconsin for a Guard training.

Both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Burlington Police Department investigated, and a Guard spokesperson said the outfit "takes this matter very seriously." Yet the Guard still sent Blodgett to the training — on a military aircraft this time.

A current Guard spokesperson said he was prohibited from discussing the outcome of its investigation. There's no indication Blodgett was ever criminally charged.

Less than two months later, Vermont State Police responded to a violent situation involving Blodgett and Quiser. According to police statements from Quiser and another witness, Blodgett became drunk and jealous during her birthday party, then disappeared.

When he returned, he approached Quiser with a knife before another attendee tackled him. In an affidavit, Quiser said she was afraid for her life and their daughter's. "[Blodgett] repeatedly pronounced his wish to kill himself, and me," she told police.

Blodgett was initially charged with a felony, first-degree domestic assault involving a weapon. But he was convicted of two lesser misdemeanors, unlawful mischief and disorderly conduct, and put on probation.

In early 2014, Blodgett was promoted to staff sergeant. The next year, he pleaded guilty to a DUI charge.

Don Christensen, a former military prosecutor and current president of the nonprofit Protect Our Defenders, which works to end military sexual assault, expressed concern but not shock over Blodgett's record of relative impunity.

"It's disturbing to have our Guard keep someone in with a track record of misconduct like this," Christensen said after Seven Days described Blodgett's record.

"At the same time, it's not surprising. If someone is favored, we know that the military will often bend the rules to keep them in."

Blodgett's former partners say he was close with numerous Guard officials who protected him, including Sgt. First Class Christopher Cozadd.

In an interview, Cozadd, who is still in the Guard, said he met Blodgett in 2009 and served for a short time as his direct supervisor. He said the two shared a few beers together over the years but didn't regularly socialize.

Cozadd repeatedly denied protecting Blodgett from accountability and vaguely suggested that Blodgett may have been punished. Cozadd said he was prohibited from divulging details. "I believe I acted in a professional manner in each situation," he said.

Knight, who's been in the Guard since 1997, believes he first heard Blodgett's name in 2019, a few months after Knight was sworn in as adjutant general. That was when he found out that Blodgett was charged with lewd and lascivious conduct after crawling into bed naked with a sleeping 8-year-old girl.

According to court documents, the girl was awoken by his touch. Blodgett said he was intoxicated at the time and believed he was entering the bed of the girl's aunt, whom he was dating.

The charge was eventually downgraded to prohibited conduct, which Blodgett did not contest. He was put on probation and ordered to have a psychosexual evaluation.

Cozadd said he was "shocked" when he heard about the 2019 charge, which made the news. Despite the allegations, Cozadd later helped Blodgett find work on a farm, a favor he described as necessary to ensure "readiness" in his unit.

Meanwhile, Blodgett has continued to attend weekend drill trainings and other mandated military exercises, though he hasn't been deployed since 2010.

Asked whether Blodgett's latest charges affect his status in the military, a Guard spokesperson said that the allegations must first be investigated by civilian police.

"If the military were a private employer and an employee was arrested and it saw the police affidavit, it could fire them immediately," Maj. Scott Detweiler said in an email. "The Government cannot do that. Leaders in the Vermont National Guard are all sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution, which requires them to handle bad acting employees differently than a private employer would do by abiding by military regulations and ultimately the Constitution."

Knight acknowledged that the Guard has been "deficient" in arming leaders with the tools and knowledge to punish bad actors. He promised to better educate his staff on how to secure nonjudicial punishments, wage freezes and discharges for lawbreaking members.

Williams recently spoke with Knight after she'd been in touch with a representative from the Guard who oversees sexual assault complaints. She said that the adjutant general wanted to make sure she had what she needed; she described him as "very supportive."

Williams hopes other women will come forward in order to reform the organization, and she hopes Blodgett will soon face real punishment.

"I find it pretty disgusting that he still gets to put on a uniform and collect a paycheck," she said. "There's some days where I can't even get out of bed, and I haven't been back to work since this all happened. He goes on living his life without being affected while every day is a new struggle for me."

Help us investigate: Do you know what's going on at the Vermont National Guard? Contact Jasper at 802-274-0365 or jclarkcraven@gmail.com.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Red Flags | A sergeant accused of sexual assaults remains in Vermont Guard despite criminal record"