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BENNINGTON — A former school bus driver from North Pownal admitted Tuesday to sexually assaulting a child over several years.

Gary Pickard, 67, pleaded guilty to repeated aggravated sexual assault of a child. His change of plea took place the day a jury was supposed to be chosen for his trial that was scheduled to start today.

Authorities accused Pickard of sexually assaulting a preteen girl, whom he knew, at his home multiple times between August 2014 and October 2018. The incidents came to light after the girl told her mother about them, according to a sworn police statement submitted to the Bennington County Superior Court.

Pickard's felony offense carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 25 years and a maximum of life. He is set to be sentenced on March 26, court records show.

He is represented by attorney Kate Lamson of Bennington. Deputy State's Attorney Alex Burke is prosecuting the case.

Earlier this year, Pickard asked the court to exclude from trial potentially incriminating statements he had made to Vermont State Police. A police affidavit shows that Pickard admitted touching the child inappropriately and indicated he had no reason to dispute that "the behavior had been occurring for a few years."

Superior Court Judge David Barra denied the defense's motion to suppress, finding that Pickard had voluntarily made the statements and hadn't invoked his right to remain silent, according to court records.

At the time of his arrest in October 2018, Pickard worked for a company contracted by the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union to provide school bus services. The supervisory union had said he was not an employee of SVSU or its member districts.

Pickard had surrendered at his home after a 7 1/2-hour standoff with state troopers. He was sent for a mental health evaluation at the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and has since been detained at the Marble Valley Correctional Facility in Rutland.

Contact Tiffany Tan at ttan@benningtonbanner.com, @tiffgtan on Twitter or 802-447-7567 ext. 122.


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