Local man denies charges in child sex case
BENNINGTON — A Shaftsbury man arrested in Pennsylvania last week was arraigned Tuesday on three felony counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child — charges that could challenge state law.
The charges are based on accusations that he had touched a pre-teen girl repeatedly sometime between 2004 and 2006.
Lamar C. Scales, 39, pleaded innocent to the charges Tuesday in Bennington criminal court. He was ordered held without bail until a hearing, as yet unscheduled, to determine if he can be released while the charges are still pending.
The charges may also test the statutes. Scales was charged three times with lewd and lascivious conduct with a child — two of them filed as second offense and third offense, using the other reported incidents in the same case to cite Scales’ history as an alleged sex offender.
A conviction on lewd and lascivious conduct with a child, third offense, would carry a mandatory minimum jail term of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison.
Generally in state law, a person is not subject to a charge of a second or third offense without a previous conviction for the offense. Scales has not been charged with lewd and lascivious conduct with a child before.
Deputy State’s Attorney Christina Rainville told Judge Nancy Corsones she believed the Legislature intended the law to count the number of alleged offenses, not convictions.
“This is a novel issue of the law, your honor, which is not decided by the (Vermont) Supreme Court,” Rainville said. “This is the only statute that by its language does not say ‘prior conviction.’ It uses the term ‘prior offense.’”
Rainville said she had done an “enormous amount of research” which indicated the charges could be filed as repeat offenses, but she admitted there is no definitive answer yet about whether her interpretation is the one the Legislature intended.
The affidavit filed in the case contains few details. Detective Sgt. Tyler Burgess said he had met with a woman and her daughter Feb. 13. The girl said Scales touched her sexually “15-20 times or more” when she was 4 to 6 years old, the affidavit said.
Burgess said the girl “became very emotional” when telling him what happened. He said the girl made the same allegation to a juvenile relative about a year ago and that the relative corroborated the girl’s story during an interview Feb. 14.
The detective couldn’t find Scales and an arrest warrant was issued March 1.
The Associated Press reported that Scales was arrested last week after Pennsylvania state troopers learned about the warrant.
Scales’ only previous charges in Bennington County are two felony counts of false pretenses and a subsequent charge of violating his conditions of release from 2006. All of those charges were dismissed by the state.
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