BENNINGTON — A Bennington woman was sentenced Tuesday to three years to life in prison for sexually assaulting a teenage boy while she was living in his home.
The woman, Stephanie Duval, 22, was sentenced under the terms of her plea deal with the state. She pleaded guilty in February to sexual assault (no consent). She admitted having sex with a 14-year-old boy in October 2017 at a Bennington home where she’d been staying.
The prosecutor said Duval entered the boy’s bedroom, got on his bed and assaulted him. She continued even after the boy asked her to leave. She was 18, whereas he was below the age of consent.
At the hearing Tuesday afternoon, Judge Cortland Corsones said the crime was “very concerning” because it was a sexual assault on a child as well as a violation of his family’s trust in Duval.
“In many ways, it represents a breach of trust by the defendant towards the family, with whom she was living,” Corsones said.
Another concerning factor, the judge said, was that Duval herself had experienced sexual assault as a minor. “She knows how harmful and hurtful such actions are.”
Duval’s sentence represented the mandatory minimum and maximum prison terms for the offense under state law.
County Deputy State’s Attorney Alex Burke earlier said that the minimum of three years in prison is “the appropriate response in this matter.” He cited Duval’s age and said her record of convictions don’t appear to be related to sexual assault.
Duval has already served the mandatory minimum, defense attorney Rick Burgoon told the court. She has been detained at Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility, in South Burlington, since Feb. 16, 2018 — Bennington County’s longest-held detainee until her case was closed on Tuesday, according to department of corrections data.
Burgoon said Duval needed time before finally accepting full responsibility for her offense and the harm she did.
When given a chance to speak, Duval apologized to the boy. She said she now understands the hurt she has caused after spending a “long time” reflecting on it in jail.
“I’m so sorry for violating and forcing him to suffer the trauma of having to deal with this assault,” she said in a remote appearance from the correctional facility. “At that time, I didn’t think I was hurting him. I didn’t mean to take advantage of him.”
She talked about her plans after being released from prison, including finishing high school and getting peer counseling at a substance abuse recovery center.
The boy or his family didn’t participate in the sentencing. Burke said his office’s victim advocate reached out to them about the plea deal with Duval but didn’t hear back.
Burgoon noted that Duval had been pregnant while in jail. He said Duval was required to give up her son to the Department for Children and Families for adoption. “She has been punished, she is remorseful,” he said.
Duval’s sentence includes sex offender treatment and counseling. Judge Corsones said her presentence investigation found that she has been diagnosed with PTSD and borderline personality disorder. After serving the minimum sentence, Duval can apply for release. But that decision — and her release conditions — will depend on the state Department of Corrections. Once released, her sentence also requires lifetime supervision and registration as a sex offender.
Corsones said her presentence investigation found she has a “moderate risk” of reoffending.
As part of her plea deal, the court dismissed with prejudice her misdemeanor charges in a related case. They allegedly involve her getting in touch with the victim on Facebook despite and no-contact order and leaving the home address she had registered with the court.