Thursday March 7, 2013

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- A man being held on accusations that he beat his girlfriend is now being accused of asking her to lie about their relationship.

Richard P. Stewart, 29, pleaded not guilty on July 3 to first degree aggravated domestic assault, and a felony charge of impeding a public officer. He was charged as a habitual offender for past theft related felonies and held without bail. On Wednesday he pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of obstructing justice and two counts of violating court orders not to contact the alleged victim in the assault case.

According to an affidavit by Vermont State Police Trooper Lewis Hatch, on July 3 he went to Shaftsbury for a report that people were fighting in the road. There he spoke to a woman who said her friend and Stewart were inside a residence fighting.

Hatch said the woman the witness was referring to was covered in blood from wounds to her head and nose. Stewart was shirtless and had fresh blood on his arms and chest. He told police the two women had been fighting inside and he attempted to break it up. The fight did not leave the house, he told police.

The wounded woman told police she had been fighting with her friend but would not answer further questions, meanwhile the first woman Hatch spoke to said her friend and Stewart had been in a fight and run outside. Hatch spoke to a neighbor who recalled seeing the fight and said one woman said "Stop, you beat me enough," then she and the male told each other that they loved one another.

While in custody Stewart told police he had been in an argument with one of the woman and while outside she attacked him so he tackled her. She then fought the other woman inside. Hatch said a stun gun had to be used on Stewart because he was belligerent and making threats to harm himself and others. The woman told police he had been using cocaine that day and was agitated because of that.

Hatch said in another affidavit that on Jan. 31 of this year he listened to phone calls recorded at the Rutland jail between people he believed were Stewart and the woman he was accused of assaulting. He wrote that Stewart urged the woman to say they had never been in a domestic relationship, otherwise he would go to prison. Hatch said prior to this he listened to call between the two placed in November where they discuss ways to have contact without authorities knowing.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter at @KWhitcombjr