BARRE — A Montpelier man has admitted to cyberstalking and sending a nude photo to a child in Northfield.
Phillip J. Benoit, 34, pleaded guilty Thursday in Washington County criminal court in Barre to felony counts of aggravated stalking of someone under 16 years old and attempted luring of a child and a misdemeanor count of sending indecent material to a minor. Benoit will be sentenced in September where the state will argue for a sentence of two to five years, all suspended except for eight months to serve. Michael Shane, Benoit’s attorney, will argue for a lesser to-serve sentence. Benoit will also be given a three-year deferred sentence on the attempted luring conviction and placed on probation.
The state agreed to drop a misdemeanor count of disturbing the peace by phone, per the plea agreement.
Officer Christopher Hoar, of the Northfield police, said in his affidavit he received a report in November 2017 about a 14-year-old student who had been receiving pornographic photos from someone on Facebook. Hoar said the girl was receiving the messages from someone named “Johnny Doughman.”
Hoar said the victim told him she didn’t know who Doughman was. She told Hoar she was “creeped out” because Doughman knew things about her that only her family knew. Hoar said one of the comments involved a Halloween costume the girl had worn in Montpelier with her family.
The victim told Hoar that she had dressed up as a witch, had worn the costume once and her friends didn’t know about it but Doughman sent her a message saying, “What are you dressed up as? A sexy witch??” Doughman sent the victim several sexual messages including saying he would be the girl’s sex slave, according to Hoar’s affidavit.
Hoar said Doughman also sent the girl a picture of his genitals. Hoar said he sent Facebook a subpoena in order to locate the IP address Doughman was using and discovered it belonged to Benoit. Hoar said Benoit had been sending the messages via his cellphone.
Benoit told Hoar that he never lets anyone else use his phone, according to court documents. Hoar said he told Benoit about the messages that came from his phone, but Benoit said he knew nothing about it. Hoar again spoke with the victim, who said since Benoit started sending her the messages she was constantly looking over her shoulder and wouldn’t go to the bathroom alone. She told Hoar she started to act out in school and her grades had started to fall. The victim told Hoar she was relieved when she was told Benoit had been arrested.