KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- In the case of a Massachusetts man accused of lewd conduct, whose case went to the Vermont Supreme Court, the state agreed Friday with a plea agreement that lessened the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor because the man has a terminal illness.
On Feb. 24, 2010, Bruce Carrolton, 64, of Fall River, Mass., pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of lewd and lascivious conduct. Had he been convicted, each charge would have carried up to 5 years in prison. He pleaded guilty Friday to one count of prohibited acts, a misdemeanor, and was ordered to pay a $100 fine.
Deputy State's Attorney Christina Rainville said Carrolton is suffering from terminal cancer and did not appear healthy in court Friday. She said he lives in Massachusetts and a conviction in Vermont would require him to live here for a time while his probation was transferred to the state where he gets medical help. She called his case "extraordinary," and said were it not for his severe illness the state would not have considered such a plea agreement.
"His illness made it impossible to anything else, really," Rainville said, adding that the victim and her family were in support of the agreement. She said she could not comment on the nature of plea agreement talks made before Carrolton's illness was an issue.
According to an affidavit by Vermont State Police, on Jan. 26, 2010, police spoke with a 16-year-old girl in Colchester who said Carrolton had sat next to her while she slept and touched her twice in different places. Carrolton declined to speak to police at the time.
The case was charged in Bennington County because there was a conflict with the Chittenden County State's Attorney's Office. The Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division ruled that the state could only charge Carrolton with one count of lewd and lascivious conduct owing to State v. Perillo, a Vermont Supreme Court decision similar to Carrolton's in which the higher court ruled because the two incidents of touching occurred during the same short time frame, they only counted as one incident and therefore could only net one lewd and lascivious conduct charge.
The Bennington County State's Attorney's Office appealed the decision hoping the Vermont Supreme Court would overturn State v. Perillo, but it did not.