Incarcerated man accused of attempting to obstruct justice

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A Bennington man tried to obstruct justice while incarcerated by attempting to send a letter asking the child of an alleged victim and witness in two pending criminal cases against him to tell her mother to change her story, according to court documents.

After Michael Carpenter, 45, pleaded not guilty in July to charges of aggravated domestic assault and violating an abuse prevention order, he wrote a letter that instructed the daughter of the victim in those cases "to tell her mom she needs to send a letter to his lawyer with truth (sic) so he can get out," according to an affidavit written by Lt. Lloyd Dean of the Bennington County Sheriff's Department. Carpenter also wrote that he "has $18,000 saved" with thousands more "owed to him from other jobs," and that, if he were to regain his freedom, he would "take the family on a Cape Cod vacation."

Dean wrote that he obtained that letter and another one — addressed to Carpenter's sons but written "in a manner that indicates it is" to the alleged victim in the two pending cases — through a subpoena sent to a correctional center, which also yielded recordings of phone calls. In at least one of those calls, placed in late July, Carpenter spoke to the victim, according to the affidavit.

Carpenter spoke with the victim again in mid-August, while at Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility, Dean wrote. Another inmate called a woman "on his approved list of names," who then "made a third-party phone call" to the victim in Carpenter's cases. The inmate then handed the phone to Carpenter, Dean wrote, citing audio and video evidence.

At an arraignment Wednesday in Bennington County Superior Court, Carpenter pleaded not guilty to the obstruction of justice charge as well as to three counts of violating his conditions of release related to his alleged attempts to contact the victim in the prior cases.

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Carpenter's attorney, Susan McManus, asked Judge John Valente at the arraignment to reconsider the basis for the obstruction charge. "I don't see how encouraging somebody to tell the truth ... amounts to obstruction of justice," she said.

"The fact that the defendant uses the word 'truth' doesn't mean he's asking the victim to tell the truth," countered Bennington County Deputy State's Attorney Alexander Burke.

Valente allowed the obstruction charge to stand but acceded to a request by McManus to strike a fifth count against her client, the specifics of which were unclear. The court clerk's office redacted the count before providing a copy of the charging documents to The Banner.

Carpenter remains held in custody without bail, according to court records.

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