Change of venue sought in abuse case
ST. JOHNSBURY – A defense attorney for the Lyndonville teen accused of strangling and sodomizing a dog last fall asked for a change of trial venue due to public outcry against her client.
Judge Walter Morris said at the end of the hearing Wednesday at the Caledonia County Courthouse he would review materials before issuing a written decision.
"There has been less of a public outcry over children who have been beaten and abused," said attorney Jill Jourdan Wednesday after the change of venue hearing.
Jourdan's client, Jeffrey Plourde, who turned 18 last month, pleaded not guilty Feb. 28 to charges of aggravated animal cruelty in a case where Kacy, a 2-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever, was so severely injured she had to be euthanized. According to court documents, Plourde was charged with the felony after several witnesses came forward to say he bragged about committing the crime. Under state law, aggravated animal cruelty means to intentionally and maliciously torture, mutilate or cruelly beat an animal and is punishable by a prison sentence of not more than three years or a fine of not more than $5,000, or both.
In a competency hearing held April 25, Judge Morris found Plourde competent to stand trial.
Jourdan said Plourde would not get a fair trial in Caledonia County based on messages she read on a Web site concerning Kacy's demise. Visitors to the Web site left messages about the accused and about Marc Plourde, Jeffrey's father, Jourdan said. The messages strongly suggested a presumption of Plourde's guilt, the lawyer said.
"They even monitor my client's father and what he does for work. … It was not so much the news articles, but the response to them to address justice for the euthanized dog…" that presents the problem, Jourdan said, characterizing the allegations as "somewhat revolting."
But State's Attorney Robert Butterfield said the case did not warrant a change of venue, based on paperwork Jourdan presented.
"Notoriety is not enough to warrant a change of venue," Butterfield said. "This case certainly has attracted attention, but this county is a fairly large county. There are a large amount of people who are not interested in the news and what people have to say about the news."
Plourde also sought to change conditions of his release from staying under 24-hour curfew at his father's home to spending weekends at his mother's Pudding Hill Road residence, also in Lyndon. His mother, Beverly Before, did not attend the hearing.
Marc Plourde and Beverly Before shared joint custody of Jeffrey Plourde before he was sentenced to the home detention for breaking probation for unrelated crimes, including felony burglary and larceny.
Jeffrey Plourde has not seen his mother since February, Jourdan said.
Both Morris and State's Attorney Robert Butterfield said it would be necessary to have a strict schedule presented to the court and to Lyndonville Police Chief Jack Harris.
Morris approved the change if Before submits a written affidavit swearing she would supervise Plourde at all times when he is in her custody.
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