Former coach accused of assaulting child to be held until decision
BENNINGTON -- Whether a former high school basketball coach accused of sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl is held in jail until trial remains to be seen.
After an all-day bail hearing Monday, Judge Nancy Corsones said she needed time to consider the evidence and arguments presented as to whether Leo Reynolds, 67, of Bennington, should remain held without bail.
Reynolds will be held without bail at least until Corsones reaches a decision, which she said would not be Tuesday, as the court's schedule is full.
"I have no doubt whatever decision I make, the other side is going to appeal it to the (Vermont) Supreme Court," she said, noting it's therefore in everyone's best interest that she weigh the evidence carefully.
Reynolds, who was coach of the Mount Anthony Union High School girl's basketball team for 28 years, has been held without bail since Thursday when he pleaded not guilty in Vermont Superior Court to aggravated sexual assault on a victim under 13, a charge that carries a 10-year-to-life penalty of convicted.
In January, Reynolds pleaded not guilty to four counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child. He posted a $15,000 deposit on a $150,000 bail bond, and was ordered not to have contact with anyone under the age of 16 without an adult present, and to not have contact with the alleged victim in the case or be near her home.
According to police, the girl said Reynolds had touched her vagina while she was upstairs in his home in December. Her mother was downstairs at the time. The girl said she had also touched Reynolds' penis.
The sexual assault charge was filed when the girl's therapist told her mother something she had disclosed during a session. Police interviewed the girl a second time and were told essentially the same story as before, only now she said Reynolds' finger had entered her vagina.
The state requested Reynolds be held without bail, saying the potential sentence of the new charge presents a greater incentive for Reynolds to flee the court's jurisdiction. Deputy State's Attorney Christina Rainville also argued that because of Reynolds' current address and its proximity to a lake and populated neighborhood, he has access to young children.
A condition of Reynolds' release required him to leave his residence. He and his wife now live with a friend in Poultney. His attorney, David Silver of the Bennington firm Barr, Sternberg, Moss, Lawrence & Silver, said Reynolds has abided by his conditions for the past three months and according to testimony given by his wife he does not leave the house without her. There are also no children coming to the home.
Silver said his client intends to fight these charges and is no more a flight risk than he was after his first arraignment.
The state played three recorded interviews with the girl, and one with Reynolds. They were presented to show the strength of the state's case against Reynolds for the purposes of the bail hearing. Silver argued against them being entered as evidence for that purpose, saying the ones from the girl were not sworn statements, and that his client's confession during his interview was made because he felt threatened by the detective.
In that interview, Bennington Police Detective Anthony Silvestro repeatedly told Reynolds he knew the girl was not lying, which meant either Reynolds had simply made a mistake and could be helped, or he was being selfish and the girl would suffer mental health issues as she grows older.
The interview lasted roughly 50 minutes. Reynolds seemed to confess after Silvestro told him that he thought Reynolds felt guilty about what he had done and was having a hard time with it.
As to the second interview, Silver attacked the state's case because of statements the girl made indicated her mother "reminded" her of what happened, and helped her demonstrate with hand signs how it happened.
Silver had called to the witness stand the Department for Children and Families investigator who interviewed the girl. She testified that her typical protocol is to ask parents not to question their children about the case, but to do a lot of listening.
Rainville argued that the child had been uncomfortable talking about the incident, and did not have words for some things.
Much of the hearing centered around technical arguments as to the admissibility of evidence. Silver said the state could have had the girl's statements admitted without objection had they been sworn. He criticized the state and police for a third, brief interview with the girl on April 1, during which she was only asked if she knew the difference between a truth and a lie, as she had been twice before.
"You can't hold someone in jail based on sloppy police work," he said, saying it had been the rough equivalent of an adult giving a statement then police coming back later and, without showing the statement to the person, asking if they would swear to it.
Silver said whether the interviews are admitted or not, they do not show his client should be held.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.
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