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Hartford Woman Asks To Change Plea

White River Junction — A Hartford woman who pleaded guilty in October to two felony charges of sexual assault of a minor has filed a motion to withdraw her plea, and her attorney is requesting to withdraw from the case.

Lucinda V. Smith, 43, pleaded guilty 121 days ago to a plea bargain that would have her serve at least 12 years in prison.

The motion to withdraw her plea provides no indication why Smith wants to withdraw from the agreement, and her Burlington attorney, Robert Katims, gave no clues about Smith’s reasoning on Monday in Windsor Superior Court.

“The state does not know why Ms. Smith wishes to withdraw her plea, and we expect that is an issue that will be discussed in greater detail when the court schedules a hearing on the matter,” Deputy Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill said Monday after the status conference.

Smith pleaded guilty in court to aiding in the commission of a sexual assault of a teenage girl between December 2011 and January 2012, and to participating years earlier in the sexual assault of a boy who was between the ages of 10 and 13 at the time, according to court documents.

Smith’s husband, Steven D. Smith, also pleaded guilty to similar charges last fall, but has yet to be sentenced.

Authorities first began investigating the couple after being notified about a possible assault of a girl by the state’s Department for Children and Families.

The Smiths were first charged with sexual assault in July 2012, and additional charges were added after the male victim came forward in November 2012.

The victims were known to the Smiths. As a general practice, the Valley News does not identify the victims of sex crimes.

Vermont Rules of Criminal Procedure state, “If the motion is made before sentence is imposed or deferred, the court may permit withdrawal of the plea if the defendant shows any fair and just reason and that reason substantially outweighs any prejudice which would result to the state from the withdrawal of the plea.”

Judge Karen Carroll said in court on Monday that a hearing should first be scheduled to consider Katims’ request to withdraw as counsel, and then the court will decide if Smith is entitled to withdraw her guilty plea.

The motion for withdrawal says Lucinda Smith told her attorney that she wanted to withdraw her plea on Jan. 27. Katims met with Smith on Feb. 5 and she “persisted in her desire to withdraw her pleas.”

The motion to withdraw her plea was filed on Feb. 7, the same day that Katims filed a motion to withdraw as her attorney, citing a conflict of interest over Smith’s request to withdraw her pleas.

Smith did not attend court on Monday, and Katims participated via speaker phone. The only reason he gave for wanting to withdraw as Smith’s attorney was that he could now be called as a witness in the case.

Katims was recently involved in another case in which the defendant asked to change his plea, however, he was on the other side and became the defendant’s new counsel.

In State vs. Glen Haskins in Chittenden Superior Court, Haskins pleaded guilty on Sept. 20 to aggravated assault and carrying a dangerous weapon while committing a felony. Four days later, Haskins filed a motion to withdraw his plea and his attorney asked that new counsel be assigned. In that case, Katims became Haskins’ new attorney.

When a hearing on the motion was called in December, Haskins testified that he had “continuously and consistently” told his lawyers that he did not want to negotiate a plea agreement, but said he was heavily pressured by his lawyers to accept a plea agreement from the state. Katims said in an interview that the defendant’s prior attorneys were called as witnesses during the hearing.

After Smith pleaded guilty in October, the court ordered that a presentence investigation report be completed before sentencing. The report is prepared for the judge’s use and often includes background information on the defendant and victim statements. Smith’s report was completed on Jan. 10, though a sentence hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Steven D. Smith, 47, entered a guilty plea in September to aggravated sex assault and a second sex assault charge. He has not been sentenced either, but according to court documents, his presentence investigation report was filed on Dec. 17.

Steven Smith has a status conference scheduled for today, and Cahill said Monday he is not aware of any request of Steven Smith to withdraw his plea.

Lucinda Smith is currently being held at Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington, Vt., and her husband is being held at the Northeast Correctional Complex in St. Johnsbury, Vt.

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