• Vermont sex offender had history of past assaults
     | January 20,2007

    BENNINGTON – Andrew C. James of Manchester, who has attracted national attention because his sentence for sexually assaulting a now-5-year-old boy allows him to avoid jail, has two previous convictions for violent crimes that in some way involved children.

    A woman James was convicted of assaulting in 2000 told police that during the attack James threatened to kill both her and a 1-year-old child she was holding.

    And in 2003, James was convicted of using a screwdriver to assault a different woman who was a passenger in his car. Two very young children were in the back seat, one of them the child James had threatened to kill three years earlier and the other the now-5-year-old boy James recently admitted sexually assaulting. Neither child was reported injured.

    James, 37, was convicted of domestic assault following both incidents, and served 30 days in prison of a two- to four-year prison sentence in connection with the 2003 assault. Both female victims told police James had been prescribed medication for mental illness and that when he didn't take the medicine he became violent. They said they were afraid he could kill them, according to Vermont State Police.

    The names of the women are being withheld because they are domestic assault victims. Information about the assaults is contained in court affidavits.

    In April 2000, James was arrested and charged with two misdemeanor counts of domestic assault at a house in Dorset. Police said he assaulted two different women.

    According to an affidavit describing the assault, violence broke out during an argument over watching television. Things escalated when James threw a toy truck to the floor and "it smashed into pieces and hit the small child on the floor."

    Police said the older of the women told them she picked up the child and left the room. James followed her, grabbed her by the finger and pulled her out of the room by it. The woman told police it felt like James almost broke her finger.

    James threatened to kill both her and the child she was holding, the older woman told police.

    After the older woman left to call police, the younger woman was sitting on the couch with the child when James punched her in the head, making her bleed.

    The younger woman told police James had abused her before. In October 1999, he broke her nose and gave her two black eyes, she said.

    After pleading guilty to both domestic assault counts, James was sentenced to six to 12 months in prison. All of his prison time was suspended under the condition that he successfully complete the terms of his probation.

    In a motion filed one week after the assault, public defender Marie Wood asked the court to amend its conditions of release against James. Wood said both women wanted to have contact with James.

    By December, the Department of Corrections said James had completed almost 30 sessions with a batterer's intervention group.

    Nearly three years later, James was arrested again in September 2003 after police received of a report of a driver "severely beating the female passenger" — the younger of the two women he'd assaulted in 2000.

    Police caught up with James on Route 103 in Chester. According to an affidavit, there were two young children in car seats in the back seat of the car James was driving.

    This time, the fight started over the radio.

    James hit the woman in the back of the head with a screwdriver, causing her to bleed.

    Police said when they were speaking to a judge over the phone to explain the assault, James blurted out, "I did not punch her. I hit her with the screwdriver."

    For that assault, James could have been sent to prison for up to five years. After pleading guilty, he was sentenced to serve two to four years in prison but all but 30 days of that was suspended.

    James was put on probation and ordered to undergo mental health and domestic violence counseling.

    Earlier this month, James pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault on a person under 10 years old. He was arrested in April after his 4-year-old victim described to police more than 10 sexual assaults. James was sentenced to serve 30 months to five years in prison but all of his jail time was suspended. He was placed on sexual offender conditions, which prevent him from having contact with his victim and place him on the Vermont sex offender registry.

    Prosecutors in the case said they reached a plea agreement because they felt his victim would not have been able to testify against him in court.

    Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly called James' sentence an "atrocity" this week on his cable television show "The O'Reilly Factor" and urged viewers to express "outrage" in e-mails to Gov. James Douglas and other Vermont state elected officials. About a year ago, O'Reilly urged his viewers to protest a different Vermont child sex crime sentence.

    Speaking about the more recent case, a spokesman for Douglas called O'Reilly's comments "woefully uninformed."

    Contact Patrick McArdle at Patrick.mcardle@rutlandherald.com

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