KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- Prosecutors have charged a Pownal man with two felony counts of attempted luring, alleging that he asked two girls, 11 and 12 years old, to remove their clothes.
Richard Keus, 46, of Pownal, pleaded not guilty to two counts of sexual exploitation - attempted luring. If convicted, Keus could face up to five years in prison on each offense. He was released on conditions that he report to the Bennington Police Department on a daily basis, not consume alcohol, and not have contact with the two girls.
According to an affidavit by Bennington Police Detective Anthony Silvestro, on Oct. 31 he spoke to an 11-year-old girl who said on Oct. 28 she was at her 12-year-old friend’s house with the 12-year-old’s mother, the mother’s boyfriend, and Keus. She said Keus was drunk and after the other two adults went to their room, Keus closed the door. She said Keus told her and her friend to take their clothes off, but they refused. She said Keus then got on the floor with his legs spread and told them to smoke some cigarettes he had because it would get them "high." She said they refused the cigarettes, but Keus threw them at the girls anyway. They then flushed the cigarettes down a toilet. Answering follow-up questions from police, the girl said Keus also told them he was going to remove his own clothes, but never did.
The girl added that Keus then tried to have them finish his beer, then began to chase them around when he could not find the rest of the beer and accusing them of stealing it. She said Keus promised to let them have some beer if they told him where it was.
The girl said Keus was scaring them, so they called two other adults to the apartment. She said Keus swore at them and the 11-year-old’s mother, who eventually brought them to the Bennington police to make a complaint.
The 11-year-old told a similar story, saying her mother had hidden Keus’ beer because he was drunk and thought he would leave. She said they called an adult on a cell phone from outside where they had hidden behind a car. She said when another adult arrived and confronted Keus, he accused the two girls of saying they would take their clothes off and called them and the adult names before leaving.
One of the adult women who confronted Keus was interviewed, according to Silvestro, and told him Keus said the girls had been saying sexual things to him and saying they would take their clothes off.
Keus told police that he was at a friend’s house with the girls at around 8:30 p.m. and had consumed roughly a 12-pack of beer. He said the girls were being loud so he shut the door to the bedroom the other two adults were in. He told police the girls were talking "dirty" to him and saying they would take their clothes off. He said he told the other two adults about it and it was then the girls accused him of asking them to remove their clothes. He said he then left.
One of the adults in the bedroom told police that Keus never entered the room or spoke to them after they retired.
Keus’ attorney, Jeff Rubin, asked the court to review probable cause on the two felony charges, saying they met the standard for a misdemeanor soliciting charge but not the two felonies. Deputy State’s Attorney Christina Rainville said the charges fit because the acts Keus us accused of suggesting had a sexual motivation. Judge Cortland Corsones said he was satisfied for now that there is probable cause on the felony charges.