BENNINGTON — Two men serving up to life in prison for child sex crimes have been resentenced after the Vermont Supreme Court found errors in their original sentencing proceedings.
The Bennington Superior criminal court has dismissed Richard McLauchlan’s conviction for aggravated sexual assault on a child under 13 years old after the Supreme Court ruled it should have been dismissed earlier. McLauchlan, 34, was sentenced 10 years to life for this felony in September 2019.
In March 2019, a jury found McLauchlan guilty of this offense and another felony, repeated aggravated sexual assault on a child, for which he was sentenced to 25 years to life. The prison times were to be served consecutively, which imposed on McLauchlan a minimum of 35 years in prison.
He was found guilty of sexually assaulting a girl in Bennington several times between 2015 and 2016, when the child was between five and six years old.
In July of last year, the state Supreme Court ordered a new sentencing hearing to correct an error in his first one. The Bennington County State’s Attorney’s Office had said it intended to dismiss McLauchlan’s conviction for aggravated sexual assault on a child younger than 13 during sentencing due to double jeopardy concerns.
The prosecutor, Alex Burke, dismissed the conviction with prejudice during a Dec. 15 virtual hearing before Supreme Court Associate Justice William Cohen — who presided over McLauchlan’s trial and sentencing while he was a Superior Court judge. This brings down McLauchlan’s minimum prison time to 25 years.
McLauchlan appeared via video link from the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Tutwiler, Miss., where some Vermont prisoners are serving their sentences. He was represented by attorney Thomas Enzor, his defense lawyer during the trial.
About half an hour later, Cohen also resentenced Titus Peters on his 2019 felony convictions for lewd and lascivious conduct as well as lewd or lascivious conduct with a child.
A Bennington jury found him guilty of a total of three felonies, in which Cohen originally ordered him to serve a concurrent 30 years to life on each offense. The state Supreme Court threw out his sentences for the lewd and lascivious convictions and ordered a new sentencing, saying the Superior Court had exceeded the penalties allowed under state law.
Authorities alleged that between 2014 and 2017, Peters molested two Bennington girls he knew. He was accused also of secretly photographing and filming them, as well as an 18-year-old woman.
At the December virtual hearing, Peters, 36, was resentenced to 2-5 years on lewd or lascivious conduct with a child and 1-5 years on lewd and lascivious conduct. These don’t affect his prison time since they’re to be served at the same time as his penalty for his most serious felony — repeated aggravated sexual assault on a child — which is 30 years to life.
Peters is serving time also at Tallahatchie correctional facility. He was represented during the resentencing by defense attorney Rick Burgoon after his trial attorney, Jonathan Ward, moved to another state.
In criminal cases where defendants receive a life sentence, an appeal with the Vermont Supreme Court becomes automatic.