The cases against Smith date to summer of 2013, when the former Ludlow man was accused of repeatedly violating an abuse-prevention order. Police said Smith had been text-messaging and calling a Windham County woman with whom he had been ordered to have no contact.
In court documents, Vermont State Police said Smith "texts and calls (the victim) numerous times a day. Too many to document. (The victim) contacts us almost daily about the amount of times Smith has contacted her."
The pattern apparently culminated in Smith taking the victim's car and ending up in Florida, where he has family. He was arrested Aug. 22, 2013, in Florida by the Marion County Sheriff's Department and later was returned to Vermont, where he has been incarcerated since.
Smith eventually pleaded guilty to four violations of an abuse-prevention order and six violations of his conditions of release. He also pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace by phone, and he pleaded no contest to operating a vehicle without the owner's consent.
The prosecutor in the case, Ashley Harriman, was the one who acted in my cases, first when an obsessive, intrusive neighbor was charged with unlawful trespass, later when he broke in at night threatening to shoot. The sentence she originally proposed in my case was 2 or 3 to 5 years. The sentence she proposed in the new case was 36 months to 14 years. In the latter, as far as I can make out, the obsessive behavior took the form of text messages and phone calls; the defendant did not actually break into the house with a weapon threatening violence. As faithful readers may remember, she settled for 14 months in a plea agreement, without going to trial, because my deposition "showed absence of fear." The accused served 9 months of the sentence, and was released with no restrictions.
The point to take away from this, anyway, is the startling lack of enforcement of both the abuse-prevention order and conditions of release. The victim contacted the police almost daily about the frequent violations, and nothing was done. It was emphatically not the case that, upon the first violation, the person under prevention order was taken into custody so that no further violations could occur.
Now, the victim played the game the way Ms. Harriman likes it to be played: she went right on reporting violations to the police even though the offender remained at large. In other words, she took the risk of reprisals again and again - and she was lucky, as these things go. The defendant stacked up multiple offenses, duly reported; he did not attack her; he merely stole her car (which has, apparently, not been recovered).
But I was told, when I found a state trooper willing to issue a citation of trespass, that it would be safer to move out of my home to avoid reprisals, in view of the defendant's long criminal record and history of violence. And I was later told, after the defendant was arraigned and released on bail, with conditions of release, that it was "probably safe to return," but if I had a problem I should call the police. The prosecutor later told me I should report even technical violations, because if there were violations "on a daily basis" this would give leverage to the prosecution - and my victim advocate confirmed that there was no guarantee that a violation would result in the defendant being arrested and taken into custody. So to play the prosecutor's game I would need not only to report incidents but leave myself open to reprisals by staying where I was, rather than retreating to my sublet in the nearest town. The final break-in was provoked because the defendant seemed to me to be pushing boundaries, despite a warning that he must be meticulous in observing conditions of release; I sent him an email with a list of actions which would result in an immediate call to the police, and the result was -- an incident which the prosecutor apparently found insufficiently frightening. The idea that failing to call the police after earlier, minor incidents might itself arise from concern for reprisals could not be entertained -- it would implicate both prosecutor and victim advocate in playing games with the victim's safety.
When I was later warned of the defendant's imminent release from jail I went to talk to the Women's Freedom Center, in part to ask whether a stalking order would help. The question I asked was how consistently these were enforced. Answer: We'd like to think they're enforced. Well, I would have liked to think so too, but if they weren't I might be back in a situation where reporting violations did nothing except annoy my faithful admirer.
The piece in the Reformer suggests that my concern was well-founded.