Ex-Deputy Found Not Guilty
Former police officer Richard Kelley, second from right, is congratulated by his lawyer Brian Marsicovetere, right, and other supporters after he was acquitted yesterday on two counts of lewd and lascivious conduct.(Eric Francis photograph)
White River Junction — For much of his law enforcement career, Richard Kelley provided security inside Windsor Superior Court. He escorted inmates to their court appearances: The former Windsor County sheriff’s deputy was part of the anonymous cast of bailiffs, clerks and other staffers who set the stage for the daily drama that unfolds in the courtroom.
So when a jury in that same courthouse declared yesterday that Kelley was not guilty of two charges of engaging in sexual misconduct with a child, the security guards manning the front door and the metal detector no longer could pretend to be dispassionate observers. They greeted Kelley, 57, with hugs and handshakes.
“Anyone who thinks false allegations of abuse do not find their way into courtrooms of this country needs to do some actual research,” defense attorney Brian Marsicovetere said on Kelley’s behalf after the trial. “This man served in law enforcement for almost 25 years and the state of Vermont paid him back with the sloppiest of investigations. Twelve people — good people — saw the truth about ... these false allegations. Now, someone tell him where he can go to get his reputation back.”
State Assistant Attorneys General Ultan Doyle and Cathy Norman did not respond to requests for comment after the verdict was announced. (Since Kelley had worked as a law enforcement officer, the Windsor County State’s Attorney’s Office had a conflict of interest, and turned over the case to the Vermont Attorney General’s Office.)
Kelley, who faced up to 30 years in prison if convicted on two counts of lewd and lascivious conduct, instead walked out of court a free man, though his legal woes are not yet concluded.
He faces another allegation of lewd and lascivious conduct in Orange Superior County, from a different alleged victim. That case has similar evidence and allegations: It is unclear if prosecutors, after losing this week’s case, will proceed.
Kelley, who also worked as a Woodstock police officer and most recently in Pawlet, Vt., was charged with committing crimes in Woodstock between 2006 and 2008 and again in 2009. The accuser, who took the witness stand on Tuesday, was under 13 years old at the time, and came forward in 2010.
The victim knew Kelley, who joined the Windsor County Sheriff’s Department in 1997 and resigned in October 2010 as the investigation intensified.
As a general practice, the Valley News does not identify victims of alleged sex crimes.
The accuser was not present in the courtroom yesterday.
The case essentially came down to the word of Kelley and the alleged victim. There was no physical evidence or witnesses.
Jurors could not be reached for comment after leaving the courthouse.
The jury of six men and six women deliberated for four hours on Wednesday night before informing Judge Robert Gerety that they were hopelessly deadlocked. Gerety ordered them to return yesterday morning for more deliberations.
They returned, and soon issued a request. Jurors wanted to listen to recordings from the trial that touched on five different subjects. It was a somewhat unusual request. Juries often ask to see specific pieces of evidence, or to listen to recordings of small bits of testimony, while deliberating. The jury’s request yesterday, however, amounted to perhaps one-third of the testimony given during the four-day trial.
The recordings led to another problem. As they were played , court staff realized that the recording system had captured not only the public courtroom proceedings, but also the confidential, whispered conversations that attorneys conducted at their respective tables.
After some debate, Gerety allowed the tapes to be played, and staffers tried to skip over confidential conversations, or turn down the volume.
The verdict came suddenly — jurors had gone on a lunch break, and were scheduled to listen to more recordings when they returned. Instead, the jury foreman announced that they had reached consensus.
While celebrating the verdict, Marsicovetere was critical of individuals who, learning of the charges against Kelley, assumed the worst and posted harsh messages about him online.
“Sick sick man and he was a sheriff,” a posting on television station’s Facebook page read yesterday.
“To the people who posted all of their comments to websites, grow up,” Marsicovetere said, “and stop acting like children.”
Mark Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3304.