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Vt. Man Guilty of Molesting Girl

Edwin Rathbun, of Hartford, Vt., pleaded guilty to molesting an 8-year-old girl in Windsor Superior Court in White River Junction, Vt., on Oct. 30, 2013. Rathbun will not face prison time, but will instead be placed on probation and receive sex offender treatment. Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

Edwin Rathbun, of Hartford, Vt., pleaded guilty to molesting an 8-year-old girl in Windsor Superior Court in White River Junction, Vt., on Oct. 30, 2013. Rathbun will not face prison time, but will instead be placed on probation and receive sex offender treatment. Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

White River Junction — A Hartford man pleaded guilty to molesting an 8-year-old girl, but he will not serve any prison time.

Instead, Edwin Rathbun, 40, will be placed on probation and ordered to go undergo sex offender treatment. Rathbun pleaded guilty to engaging in a prohibited act, a misdemeanor, in Windsor Superior Court on Wednesday and was given an eight-to-12-month suspended sentence.

Rathbun initially faced two felony charges of aggravated sexual assault and faced up to life in prison for incidents that Hartford Police said occurred in July 2012. But in a plea agreement with the state, Rathbun pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge.

Deputy Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill told Judge Karen Carroll that the case is difficult because the victim, who is now 9, recalled to police “fantasies” that were not real.

“From the state’s perspective, she provided a truthful narrative of sexual assault and then interspersed in that narrative things that she wished had happened,” Cahill clarified after the hearing.

The girl’s story included details that someone had come and rescued her, specifically a firefighter and her mom, which is not true, Cahill said.

Cahill added after the hearing that the state was trying to prevent the victim from having to testify during a trial, in which she would have been exposed to cross examinations.

As a general practice, the Valley News does not identify victims of sex crimes. The victim was known to Rathbun.

Rathbun was at the hearing with members of his family and declined to comment.

Rathbun’s attorney, Peter Decato, echoed Cahill’s reason for the plea agreement and said it was out of concern for the victim.

“If she was cross examined vigorously, I’m not sure if it helps anybody,” Decato said.

During the hearing, the victim’s mother read a statement to the courtroom. (The Valley News is not identifying the mother to avoid identifying the victim.)

Since the assault, the mother said, the victim struggles with everyday functions like sleeping in her own room. The victim suffers severe anxiety and panic attacks.

“If it was up to me, I would make you stand trial and face the consequences of your actions,” the mother said. “I feel you deserve a lot more than you are getting, however, I am protecting her and putting her needs first and foremost.”

The events occurred during July 2012, and the victim initially told her mother what happened, according to an affidavit filed by Hartford Police. The victim told officials that she wanted Rathbun to go to jail and that he had threatened to shoot the victim’s family if she told on him.

When Rathbun was interviewed by police, he denied any wrongdoing, according to the police report.

Rathbun appeared in court with neatly trimmed black hair and a black suit. After Carroll explained the details of the plea agreement, she asked Rathbun, “What is your plea?”

Rathbun hesitated. When he finally spoke, his voice quivered as he said, “I plead to a reckless act.”

Later in the hearing, Carroll said she noticed some hesitancy in Rathbun’s admission of guilt.

“If he goes to sex offender treatment and if there’s a chance that he won’t admit to that or have issues with accepting responsibility, he’ll be back here quickly,” Carroll said.

But Decato assured the judge that he had conversations with Rathbun about the nature of his probation and treatment. Rathbun must complete a sex offender treatment program and cannot have contact with the victim and cannot initiate contact with minors younger than 16 years old.

“I’m convinced that he understands what his obligations are in respect to his probation,” Decato said.

When Carroll asked if Rathbun had anything else he wanted to say, Rathbun said, “No, ma’am.”

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.