McAllister requests acquittal or new trial

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ST. ALBANS — An attorney for former Republican state Sen. Norm McAllister is asking a judge to acquit his client of a prohibited acts conviction or allow a new trial on that charge.

A jury found McAllister guilty at a trial last month of one misdemeanor count of prohibited acts that he had prostituted a woman living and working on his Highgate farm to a friend for money.

The jury acquitted McAllister of another prohibited acts charge that alleged his entire relationship with his accuser was coercive and amounted to a sex-for-rent prostitution scheme.

McAllister, 65, was also acquitted on the most serious charge he faced at the July trial, a felony sexual assault charge, which carried up to a life sentence, alleging that he twice raped the woman who was living and working on his farm.

The July trial was the second one for McAllister. An earlier case alleging sexual assault was dismissed by the prosecutor after the first day of testimony.

Speaking to reporters after the July trial, McAllister said he felt "pretty well vindicated" by the jury's verdict. Robert Katims, McAllister's defense attorney, said at the time that they would appeal the sole conviction.

Katim asked the court for an acquittal, or at the very least a new trial, because he argued there was not sufficient evidence to support a guilty verdict on the prohibited acts charge.

Katims also writes that there were a half-dozen "prejudicial errors" made by the court in conducting the trial, which he says entitle McAllister to an acquittal or a new trial.

The Franklin County state's attorney filed a court document opposing McAllister's request. No hearings are currently scheduled in the case, and a judge has yet to rule on the defense motion.

McAllister is currently awaiting sentencing on the prohibited acts charge, which carries up to a year in prison and up to a $100 fine.

Katims argues that the only evidence presented at trial to support the allegation that McAllister prostituted his accuser to a friend was her testimony and a statement McAllister made during a recorded phone call.

During that call, as the woman recounts to McAllister plans they discussed to prostitute her to migrant farmworkers, McAllister responds: "Like you did with that one guy that one time?" That statement is ambiguous and not an admission of guilt, Katims writes.

The standard for an acquittal after conviction by jury is whether the evidence, "viewed in the light most favorable to the state" would reasonably convince a reasonable person of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

In its opposition motion, prosecutors say the woman's testimony and the recorded phone call are "sufficient to support a verdict of guilty."

Katims argues that testimony from a state trooper at trial was prejudicial and violated McAllister's Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself because the trooper said McAllister told him that he did not wish to discuss the sexual assault allegations.

Other prejudicial errors raised by Katims in his 19-page motion center on the admission of limited evidence from McAllister's previous sexual assault trial — where the state dropped the charges — what Katims says were improper jury instructions to disregard certain evidence; the late disclosure of records during discovery; the denial of certain mental health and family court records from the accuser; and, the denial of a defense request to have the woman undergo a psychiatric examination.

In its motion, the Franklin County state's attorney rejects the notion the court committed prejudicial errors.

"The court's decision and entry orders on the issues were not an abuse of discretion or an error," the prosecution wrote.

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