BENNINGTON — A former Bennington College student received a two-year deferred sentence for a sexual assault in 2020 in which the defendant furnished alcohol to a minor before assaulting the impaired victim.
John D’Angelo pleaded guilty in Bennington Superior Court to two counts — lewd and lascivious conduct, and furnishing alcohol to a minor — in a plea deal with prosecutors that had the blessing of the victim’s family.
“There’s a large part of me that wanted John to face the maximum sentence for what he had done,” said the father of the victim as he choked back tears in a victim’s impact statement read before the sentence was handed down.
“The part of every father that wants to protect their children at all costs certainly is driven by my emotions. In more level-headed moments, I know at the core of who I am. I know that people can change. I hope that this sentence has struck that balance of punitive and compassion so that John can change from within. My hope is this is enough to never cause the kind of pain to any other family.”
The father went on to talk about the victim, choking back every few sentences before being able to continue.
“The deep pain that I felt for my child on that October day no one should have to experience. Getting my younger son ready for school and noticing (the victim’s) car key missing from the counter, that feeling in my stomach when I realized he hadn’t returned the night before was overwhelming. The guilt that I couldn’t protect him and the loss because I knew I couldn’t fix this. Through all of this, I can honestly say I could not be prouder of my son in the way he has handled this whole experience. For many victims of sexual abuse, the moment can come to define who they become. I know this is not the case. This will not derail him.”
The incident happened in a dorm room at Bennington College on Oct. 14, 2020, when D’Angelo and the victim communicated on the social app Snapchat, and D’Angelo invited the victim to his dorm room. The defendant was drinking alcohol and offered the victim drinks, knowing he was underage. The victim complied and stayed in D’Angelo’s room for the remainder of the night. Sometime during that night, D’Angelo engaged in improper sexual touching, knowing that the victim was incapable of consent.
In the plea arrangement handled by the Windham County prosecutor's office because of a conflict with Bennington County, D’Angelo pleaded guilty on the two counts, and a third more serious charge of sexual assault with the use of drugs to impair was dismissed. D’Angelo was facing a possible life sentence if he had been convicted of that charge. The two other counts carried a maximum sentence of 7 years combined.
D’Angelo, as part of the plea deal, is required to register as a sex offender with the state and has numerous other conditions of parole, including not drinking alcohol, not possessing any regulated drugs without a prescription, random urinalysis, random alcohol and drug screenings, treatment for sexual boundaries, and no contact with the victim during the duration of the deferred sentence.
“I am extremely remorseful and apologize for all the harm I have caused,” said D’Angelo when given a chance to speak in open court. “I am very ashamed and deeply sorry. Most of all, I apologize to (the victim) and his family.”
Judge Cortland Corsones then took a few moments to gather his thoughts as the court went into recess, and the victim’s advocate dog nuzzled the family as they awaited the decision. Within a few minutes, Corsones was back. He recited the facts of the case and stated the law and how the sentence was considered. Then he spoke eloquently about the victim and his capacity to forgive the defendant.
“Clearly, this was a serious crime,” said Corsones as he looked straight at the victim and his family. “We have a victim in this case that is extremely resilient, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be long-lasting effects that will continue to need attention and monitoring.”
He went on to say, “We’ve all learned something about (the victim) through his father’s words about compassion and resiliency. He’s an amazing young man. We’d all be better off if there were more people like him in the world.”
Corsones then spoke about the defendant. “Mr. D’Angelo has no history of criminal convictions and he’s taken full responsibility for his actions and is genuinely remorseful with an understanding of how his actions have impacted the victim in this case. He has entered and completed substance abuse treatment and remained sober. He has continued with his psychotherapy and remains actively engaged in treatment so that nothing like this happens again. The court accepts the terms of the agreement and sentences Mr. D’Angelo to a two-year differed sentence.”
The victim was then surrounded by family in a group hug of five as they departed the courtroom.