• Man told to get out of town, except for special holidays
     | July 04,2006

    MONTPELIER Banishment is a very old and tough punishment. The Greek philosopher Socrates chose to drink poison hemlock rather than face exile from Athens.

    Now a man from the northeastern Vermont village of Gilman faces five months in jail followed by a three-year requirement that he stay away from his hometown for a series of crimes stemming from a long-running fight with his neighbors.

    Francis J. Robb, 36, will be allowed to visit the village, part of the town of Lunenberg, only to see his mother on Christmas, Thanksgiving and her birthday.

    "It's kind of a 'get out of Dodge' sort of thing," said Essex County State's Attorney Vincent Illuzzi.

    The reference was to a saying that originated with the television series "Gunsmoke," set in Dodge City, Kan., in which once the bad guys were vanquished, they were told to "Get out of Dodge."

    "Given Mr. Robb's record of convictions and his menacing behavior toward some of his neighbors, it made sense to get him out of the picture for an extended duration," Illuzzi said in a prepared statement.

    "The only other alternative would have been a longer jail sentence and I'm not sure the state's taxpayers should foot that bill. The entire burden should rest on Mr. Robb," said Illuzzi, who also serves as a state senator from the Essex-Orleans district.

    Robb pleaded no contest on Thursday to one count of felony aggravated assault and eight misdemeanors in a series of incidents last summer. Illuzzi said Robb had been retaliating against his neighbors, two of whom had testified against him in an earlier case.

    In one instance, neighbors David Greeno, Harold Smith IV and his brother Casey Smith told authorities that Robb pointed a handgun at them and at Harold Smith's 4-year-old son, Harold Smith V.

    Robb's lawyer, Peter Langrock of Middlebury, said his client maintained that the gun was a toy and he passed a lie detector test with that statement, but the judge ruled the test not admissible as evidence.

    "Three people were willing to swear he had a real gun," Langrock said. "The risk of being convicted was so great that he had to take an Alford plea."

    An Alford plea, named for a U.S. Supreme Court case originating in North Carolina, occurs when a defendant does not admit a crime but acknowledges that the state has enough evidence to get a conviction. Illuzzi said the aggravated assault conviction stemmed from an incident in which Robb struck Harold Smith IV and Greeno with a board that had nails sticking out the end of it.

    Four misdemeanor counts stemmed from the gun incident. There were two more simple assault misdemeanors, a count of negligent operation of a motor vehicle and a count of violating earlier conditions of release.

    On the felony conviction, Robb received a 15-year deferred sentence and three years of probation. Illuzzi said the sentence would not be triggered unless Robb violated the probation condition that he stay away from Gilman village.

    Langrock disputed Illuzzi's characterization of the sentence. "It's not banishment. Banishment is pejorative. You frequently have cases where someone is told to stay 500 feet away from (his or her victim). These people are next-door neighbors, so it made sense" to have Robb stay away from the village.

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