Hartford man pleads not guilty to decade-old sex assault of child

  • Justin Chamberlin

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/21/2020 10:12:51 PM
Modified: 2/21/2020 10:12:37 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — A 26-year-old Hartford man pleaded not guilty this week to charges he sexually assaulted a child more than a decade ago.

Justin Chamberlin appeared in Windsor Superior Court on Friday on charges of aggravated repeated sexual assault, three counts of sexual assault without consent and one count of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child.

Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Mann agreed to allow Chamberlin to stay out on bail following the hearing, noting that he has cooperated with law enforcement officers and he has strong ties to the community.

The charges stem from a series of alleged incidents in 2009 and 2010 when Chamberlin was 16 and 17 years old, according to an affidavit written by Vermont State Police Detective Sgt. Michael Studin. According to police, Chamberlin sexually assaulted a young boy multiple times at a farm in Woodstock and a house in Pomfret. Chamberlin threatened to hurt the child’s pet if he told anyone about the incidents, the affidavit said.

Police didn’t learn about the accusations until December 2019, when the victim told his parents, who took him to the police station to make a report, the affidavit said.

Investigators questioned Chamberlin, who acknowledged having sexual contact with the child on several occasions, and issued him a citation for the charges this month, according to the affidavit.

Chamberlin fought back tears and hung his head in court Friday as Windsor County Deputy State’s Attorney Karen Oelschlager asked the judge to hold him without bail. She said one of the charges — aggravated repeated sexual assault — can carry a life sentence, and that Chamberlin still poses a danger to the community.

But Elizabeth Kruska, an attorney representing Chamberlin at the hearing, argued that he’s not a danger to the community and he’s not likely to flee. She said he has two children — who don’t live with him — and he’s currently in treatment for drug abuse.

She also questioned whether the case could be moved to juvenile court in the future because Chamberlin was a minor when the alleged incidents occurred.

In an interview following the hearing, Oelschlaeger said she’s “not aware of any law that grants Family Division jurisdiction over someone after their 22nd birthday.”

Chamberlin, who according to the affidavit has a previous court record as a juvenile for similar offenses, is scheduled to appear in court for another hearing next month.

Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.

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