BENNINGTON -- A 25-year-old man accused of molesting a 15-year-old girl who was then captured by police as they posed as a different underage female, is being held without bail.
Jonathan D. Tobin, who court records list as homeless, pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Vermont Superior Court to two counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child, two counts of attempted luring of a child, and one count of attempted sexual assault. He will be held until a hearing to determine what, if any, conditions he can be released on while the case is pending.
According to an affidavit by Vermont Detective Trooper Robert Zink, on June 11 police became aware that a 15-year-old girl had been the subject of unwanted sexual advances by Tobin.
The girl told police she met Tobin in Pownal during the winter months and kept in contact with him through Facebook and text messages. She said that on June 8 he sent her a picture of his genitals. The next day she was hanging out with him and they went for a walk to a secluded area. It was there Tobin touched her sexually, tried to make her touch him, and also made numerous sexual comments and propositions.
She said that prior to this he had sent her a number of online messages of a sexual nature, and talked about raping, choking, and making her pregnant. She deleted these messages, but police recovered them from the phone she was using.
Zink wrote that Tobin was located in Bennington on July 3 by Bennington Police Officer Keith Diotte. Tobin ran into a wooded area and could not be found.
Zink created a Facebook profile with which he pretended to be a 14-year-old girl. He messaged Tobin’s Facebook account through it, and they struck up a conversation in which Tobin asked if she wanted to have sex. Zink said he told Tobin he was 14. "I like young," was Tobin’s response. He also sent a picture of his genitals to Zink.
Tobin was told the girl would be near the Bennington Recreational Center at 10 a.m. Police found him there, and while he got up when they approached he was ordered the ground and arrested without incident.
Tobin admitting to running from police earlier because he knew why they were looking for him. He said the messages he sent to Zink were jokes and he had no intention of having sex with a 14-year-old girl. He said the same thing about the 15-year-old, but first denied some of them, saying the account was hacked. He then admitted to them.
He denied any physical contact with her and said she tried to kiss him, but he told her no.
Tobin was charged as a habitual offender, meaning if he gets another felony conviction that prosecutors will not have an upward limit to what they can ask for as a sentence. His prior convictions include three burglaries, false personation, and escaping from furlough. Police said he has multiple charges of larceny and burglary from Tennessee and has ties to Georgia and Arkansas.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.