Thursday October 4, 2012

BENNINGTON -- The following cases were heard Tuesday in Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division:

Jennifer Free, 39, of Shaftsbury, pleaded guilty to a felony count of obstructing justice, and giving false information to a police officer. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday, when the state will drop the false information charge. Court records indicated sentencing was put off while the availability of a work crew was investigated.

Free pleaded not guilty to the charges in January. According to an affidavit by Bennington County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Justin Niles, Free admitted to lying to police about an assault she reported last year when she said Todd Merrow, 37, attacked her and a male friend of hers. The state dropped the charges in connection with the alleged assault on Free, but continued with the charges relating to the other male.

Merrow pleaded guilty in February to aggravated assault with a weapon and was given a 5- to 15-year suspended sentence and two years of probation. He had been in jail for 92 days. Police said the male had accused Merrow of trying to hit him with a truck after he left the house where the incident took place. Erica Belville, 21, of Pownal, pleaded guilty to aggravated domestic assault. She received an 18- month to 36-month suspended sentence and will be on probation for two years. The state agreed to drop a misdemeanor domestic assault charge as part of the plea agreement.


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Belville pleaded not guilty in May after police said people Belville lived with told them she cut another woman in the stomach with a pair of scissors during an argument.

Adam Parent, 28, of Bennington, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic assault and cruelty to a child under 10 years old. A sentencing hearing was scheduled for Nov. 6. According to a Bennington police affidavit, on Aug. 1 a woman said Parent had spanked one of her children on the buttocks hard enough to leave bruises. Parent told police he had put the child to bed but it kept getting up to play with a fan. He said he spanked the child once over diapers to little effect and during the second incident pulled the diapers down to spank the child. He said he never intended to leave marks.

Keith Gates, 25, also of Hoosick Falls, N.Y., pleaded guilty to burglary, and petit larceny. A sentencing hearing was scheduled for Gates during the first week of December when the state will drop the larceny charge. According to court records the state agreed to cap its sentencing argument for probation. Jessica Wilwol, of Hoosick Falls, N.Y., pleaded guilty to being an accessory to the burglary. She was given an 18-month deferred sentence. She initially pleaded not guilty to the charge in June.

According to an affidavit by Bennington police, in May they investigated the theft of a jar of change from a home on River Road in Bennington. Police said Gates admitted to taking the money and having Wilwol drive him to the area of River Road. Police said the pair were seen at a local gas station paying for gas in coins.

Jasmine Brock, 21, of Bennington, pleaded guilty to impeding a public official. She was given a 12- to 18-month suspended sentence and placed on probation for one year. The state dismissed a resisting arrest charge.

According to a Bennington police affidavit, on May 18 Officer Roscoe Harrington pulled a vehicle over for a traffic violation. It stopped in a driveway and Brock, the passenger, got out. According to Harrington, Brock began yelling and swearing at him while he tried to speak to the vehicle’s driver. He said he told Brock a number of times that she was hindering his investigation but she continued to yell and tell the driver she did not have to listen to Harrington. He said when he went to arrest Brock she ran inside a house where she continued to yell from, making it hard for the driver to concentrate on what Harrington was saying.

-- Keith Whitcomb Jr.