More calls for tougher Vt. sex laws

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Tuesday, August 12
HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. — Two Rensselaer County lawmakers say the arrest of a Vermont man in Hoosick Falls last week attests to their call for Vermont lawmakers to pass tougher sex offender laws.

Republican Rensselaer County legislators Stan Brownell and Lester Goodermote called last month on Vermont to strengthen its laws because of Rensselaer County's proximity to Vermont. They intend to introduce a resolution today when the county legislature meets.

Abduction charge

But the arrest of Ed O'Dell, 37, of Bennington, Vt., on Thursday for the attempted abduction of two girls and impersonating a police officer, further illustrates the need for Vermont to adopt tougher laws, according to Brownell and Goodermote

"There has recently been concern about the effectiveness of sex offender laws in Vermont. This arrest shows there is a need for our neighbor to approve tougher laws to protect all residents in the region," Brownell said Saturday.

Hoosick Falls Police Chief Robert Whalen said there are no indications O'Dell had any plans to harm the two girls he allegedly attempted to pick up.

"He's just a lonely little man who wanted some company," Whalen said. "He just needs, with his mental capacity, he needs some help. I don't think he'd hurt anybody."

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The two Rensselaer County officials first called on Vermont to strengthen its laws in the wake of the alarming Brooke Bennett case. The 12-year-old girl from Braintree, Vt., was found slain on July 2 not far from the home of her 42-year-old uncle, Michael Jacques. Bennett went missing in Randolph, Vt., a week earlier.

Jacques, a convicted sex offender who was released early from his probation, has been charged with kidnapping Bennett, but has yet to be charged with sexual assault or murder.

Jacques was convicted of kidnapping and sexual assaulting an 18-year-old woman in 1992. He served more than four years in prison and completed a sex offender treatment program while incarcerated, leading a Vermont Department of Corrections official to label Jacques a "success" story and advocate for Jacques' early release from his probation. He was granted early release from probation in 2006 by Judge Amy Davenport, against the recommendation of prosecutors.

Vermont lawmakers, led by state Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, have begun holding hearings on ways to improve the state's laws. Sears said the committee's first two hearings on Thursday and Friday were productive. The committee will hold several more committee meetings and public hearings in August and September.

However, some ideas, such as civil confinement, which is used in New York, are not being considered, according to Sears, who said those ideas have already been discussed and rejected by the Legislature in the past.

Goodermote, however, said it is time Vermont officials pass such a law.

"The incident in Hoosick Falls shows why Vermont's laws need to be tougher. We share a border, and we should also share laws that help protect our children from predators," Goodermote said.

The two New York county-level legislators said they are also planning to meet with Vermont Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie to discuss the tougher legislation.


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