Jury set for McAllister sexual assault trial

ST. ALBANS — The jury is set for the sexual assault trial of Sen. Norman McAllister.

Sen. Norm McAllister, R-Franklin, in court Tuesday to draw a jury for his upcoming sexual assault.

Josh O'Gorman / VPB

Sen. Norm McAllister, R-Franklin, in court Tuesday to draw a jury for his upcoming sexual assault.

Following hours of questioning from attorneys representing the prosecution and the defense, a field of 84 prospective jurors was weened down to seven men and five women.

The Republican senator from Franklin County is facing two counts of sexual assault — each count carries a potential life sentence — following his arrest at the State House in May 2015.

His trial is scheduled to begin Wednesday and run through Friday.

McAllister is also facing a third charge of sexual assault — the trial for which has yet to be scheduled.

McAllister’s upcoming trials have not dampened his political ambitions, with the senator filing paperwork in May declaring his intention to run for re-election.

During questioning on Tuesday, defense attorney David Williams questioned the jurors — sometimes addressing them individually — on a range of topics, including whether they had ever been falsely accused of a crime or whether they would have a problem with McAllister not testifying on his own behalf.

As a likely precursor of the questions the alleged victim will face when she testifies Wednesday, Williams asked jurors whether they would have a problem telling the story of a major life event twice, with all the details being the same each time.

McAllister’s defense team is expected to highlight perceived inconsistencies in the account of the alleged victim, a woman referred to in court documents by the initials “K.P.” According to court documents, K.P. — who is now in her early 20s — claims McAllister assaulted her 20 to 30 times between January 2010 and April 2015, beginning when she was 15 years old.

Noting that McAllister is not being charged with 20 to 30 counts of sexual assault, Judge Robert Mello instructed Franklin County State’s Attorney Diane Wheeler to narrow the scope of the charges.

Wheeler argued the exact date of the alleged assaults being charged is irrelevant, adding that the alleged victim has struggled to pin down when the acts allegedly occurred.

“Dates, math and numbers is something she cannot do,” Wheeler said.

McAllister’s defense team argued the lack of specificity in the dates of the charges was prejudicial to their client. Wheeler amended the charges to reflect a specific period of time when K.P. worked on McAllister’s farm, approximately from summer 2012 to spring 2013.

Prospective jurors were asked a series of questions to gauge their knowledge of both the defendant and the criminal case. Of the 24 jurors initially questioned, 22 said they either know McAllister or had heard of him. Twenty-one of the jurors said they had heard accounts of the McAllister case in the media, but only three said they had formed an opinion based on those reports.

The questions also gave a glimpse of who might be called to testify. K.P. Is scheduled to be the first witness in what is expected to be a three-day trial. Other witnesses for the prosecution might include Sen. Kevin Mullin, R-Rutland, and Rep. Timothy Corcoran, D-Bennington — two lawmakers who shared a house with McAllister when the Legislature was in session.

Witnesses for the defense might include the defendant’s son, Keith McAllister, as well as Rep. Corey Parent, R-St. Albans, and Rachel Feldman, assistant to Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.

Other witnesses will include Seven Days reporter Mark Davis, who wrote a story in which McAllister allegedly said the sex between himself and K.P. was consensual and only began after McAllister’s wife died in 2013.

Vermont Public Radio reporter Peter Hirschfeld might also be called to testify to the authenticity of a recorded interview in which McAllister allegedly denied any sexual involvement with K.P.

josh.ogorman@timesargus.com

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