BARRE — A Williamstown man convicted last year of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl in 2010 had his bail reduced Wednesday as he awaits a possible retrial based on claims of new information about the victim.
Last December, Billy J. Lacillade, 45, was convicted by a jury in Washington County criminal court in Barre on one count of felonious sexual assault, no consent. He is facing a sentence of at least three years in prison with a maximum of life. He was initially ordered held on $35,000 bail while awaiting sentencing.
Lacillade was convicted of sodomizing the girl in August 2010 while she was sleeping overnight at his wife’s residence in Berlin. His lawyer is now saying the girl may have lied about similar claims in the past.
Attorney Maggie Vincent filed a motion in February for a new trial, saying information had come to light that could cause a jury to acquit him. In the motion, Vincent said that two days after the conviction the prosecutor, Megan Campbell, confirmed to Vincent that the victim had made a similar claim in 2007 that she had been sexually assaulted by another friend’s father when she stayed over at the friend’s home in 2005.
Vincent said that after making that complaint, the girl gave several conflicting statements that it was false or that it was true but she had been encouraged by her family to say it was false.
According to the motion for a new trial, there is also an ongoing investigation about a report in 2012 of a third man sexually assaulting the girl, though no charges have been brought.
“The prosecution of this case was dependent on the credibility of the complaining witness as to lack of consent,” Vincent said in the motion. “A history of false allegations of sexual assault is a mortal blow to the credibility of a complaining witness in a sexual assault case. Inclusion of the evidence at trial, particularly with the similarity of the facts between the 2007 allegation and the facts in (this case) ... (is) likely to result in a different outcome.”
The motion goes on to say that Campbell violated the state’s rules of criminal procedure by not providing the information about the 2007 complaint as part of the discovery process in the Lacillade case. Vincent said the 2007 case was investigated by the Vermont State Police and was referred to Campbell for review. Within two years of that review, Campbell initiated the prosecution of Lacillade.
In her response opposing the motion for a new trial in March, Campbell said it is unclear the new evidence would even be admissible and that even if it was, it is unlikely it would have affected the outcome of the trial.
“It is true that this attorney reviewed (the case) in 2008 and determined there was insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges,” Campbell said in the response. “A large number of sexual assault cases are reviewed by this office on a regular basis. Many of the cases submitted for review never result in criminal charges for a variety of reasons, even if the alleged victim’s testimony appears to be true.”
Campbell said that after Vincent filed the motion for a new trial, the state’s attorney’s office contacted the girl to ask about the 2005 incident. Campbell said the girl confirmed she had been sexually molested by a man and the report was true. Campbell said the girl also told the state’s attorney’s office that her family had been homeless before the incident in 2005 and the man took them in.
“(The girl) disclosed that (the man) had sexually molested her, but (the girl’s) mother encouraged her to recant her disclosure out of fear that the family would again lose their housing,” Campbell said in the response. “(The girl) did what her mother asked and recanted. She was 13 years old at the time.”
As for the third male accused of sexually assaulting the girl, Campbell said she did receive paperwork from state police about the alleged incident but returned the case to police, saying she would review it again if additional evidence turned up.
Campbell said even if the court allowed the inclusion of the 2005 incident in Lacillade’s original trial, it would have created a trial within a trial about whether the second man had touched the girl and whether she was succumbing to family pressure by recanting.
She also said inclusion may actually hurt Vincent’s case.
“A jury could well have concluded that (the girl) was previously victimized by (the second man) which led her to be more vulnerable to the sexual assault by (Lacillade),” Campbell said.
Campbell also contended the issue at Lacillade’s trial was not whether he had sex with the girl, as the defense acknowledged and a DNA test confirmed, but whether he forced her.
“Hence, even assuming that the newly discovered evidence would have impeached (the girl’s) credibility, the new information would not have changed the outcome given that the primary issue was legal rather than factual,” Campbell said in her response to Vincent’s motion.
Judge Thomas Zonay said the court was obligated to hear about the newly discovered information, and he scheduled a Jan. 23 hearing on the motion for retrial.
In court Wednesday, Vincent argued that Lacillade should be released without bail because he has been imprisoned for more than a year after the verdict, has strong ties to the community and has no desire or ability to flee. Vincent asked that Lacillade be released to live at either his mother’s or his sister’s home.
Campbell countered by noting he has been convicted of a serious felony with a maximum possible sentence of life in prison. Campbell also cited his criminal history, including convictions for domestic assault, three violations of conditions of release, and driving with a suspended license. She said Lacillade’s history of violence and substance abuse is pertinent because it shows an inability of people, such as his sister and mother, to supervise him.
“The court based its decision on the evidence at the trial,” Zonay said of the initial bail amount. “The court based its decision on the factors it needed to consider under the law. The court also recognizes that it was unaware of anything that would generate a new trial possibly.”
The judge then lowered Lacillade’s bail from $35,000 to $20,000. He remains in custody.
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