BENNINGTON -- A former high school basketball coach accused in January of touching the private parts of a 7-year-old girl is facing a far more severe charge after the alleged victim provided more information to police.
Leo Reynolds, 67, formerly of Robinson Avenue, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Vermont Superior Court to aggravated sexual assault on a victim under 13 years of age. In January he had pleaded not guilty to four counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child.
Reynolds was girls basketball team coach at Mount Anthony Union High School for 28 years until halfway through the 2012 season. He has not been accused of inappropriate activity through that position.
Judge Nancy Corsones ordered Reynolds held without bail until a weight of the evidence hearing, scheduled for Monday at 10 a.m. despite his attorney’s arguments that his client poses no greater a risk of flight than he did at his first arraignment hearing.
According to an affidavit by Bennington Police Detective Anthony Silvestro, on Dec. 30 a 7-year-old girl told police that she was in Reynolds’ house on Christmas Eve and that he touched her vagina and had her touch his penis. Police said Reynolds admitted to this when interviewed the following day. These alleged acts formed the basis for the four lewd and lascivious conduct with a child charges, each of which carries a two-year minimum sentence if a conviction is obtained.
In a supplemental affidavit, Silvestro writes that the girl began to see a therapist regarding the incident with Reynolds. Through those sessions she ended up telling her mother that Reynolds’ finger had entered her vagina, a detail she had forgotten to share with police before. The girl told police this on March 18, saying her mother had reminded her of it.
The alleged act of penetration allowed the state to file the sexual assault charge, which carries a 10-year minimum on conviction with a maximum of life.
When Reynolds was first arraigned, he was released after posting $15,000 on a $150,000 bail bond. He was placed under conditions restricting his contact with children, and specifically the alleged victim. According to his attorney, David Silver, this has led to Reynolds selling his home and living with a friend in Poultney.
Deputy State’s Attorney Christina Rainville asked that Reynolds be held without bail pending a weight of the evidence hearing where the court will determine what, if any, conditions he can be released on that ensure he will appear at future court hearings. Because the new charge carries a possible life sentence and is considered a crime of violence the burden of proving Reynolds is not a flight risk fell to him and his attorney.
Silver argued that nothing has effectively changed since Reynolds was arraigned. Given his age, the minimum of eight years he would face on being convicted of the lewd and lascivious conduct charges would be an effective life sentence. His client has been abiding by his conditions and has invested significant funds in his defense. According to Silver, there are issues with his client’s alleged confession for which expert witnesses have been retained.
If anything has changed, Silver said, it’s that the state’s case has become weaker given the mother’s "reminding" the child of what happened.
The original affidavit states the mother had brought the girl over to Reynolds’ house and was downstairs with his wife while Reynolds and the girl were upstairs. The girl disclosed what happened when the mother thought she looked upset after leaving the home. Later she would say there were other occasions.
Corsones said she would not hold a full weight of the evidence hearing Wednesday as court procedures would not allow it on this matter. Rainville had argued that only something extraordinary would allow the court to release Reynolds before the hearing.
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