Thetford Man Pleads Not Guilty to Sexual Assault

  • Michael Paton (Vermont State Police photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/27/2017 12:12:58 AM
Modified: 4/27/2017 10:16:23 AM

White River Junction — A worker at an assisted-living facility accused of sexually assaulting an 83-year-old woman was ordered held without bail on Wednesday as he awaits trial on two felony charges.

Michael Paton Jr., 22, of Thetford, pleaded not guilty in Windsor Superior Court to one charge each of sexual abuse of a vulnerable adult and sexual assault without consent. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Paton was working at Valley Terrace, an assisted-living facility on Christian Street in Wilder, on Monday night when a co-worker became alarmed after finding Paton in the woman’s room, according to an affidavit from Vermont State Police. The woman has dementia, police said.

The co-worker reported the incident to the facility’s supervisors, who questioned Paton and called Hartford police, according to the affidavit. He was charged and taken to Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, Vt., on Tuesday. Paton’s employment was terminated by Valley Terrace.

In court on Wednesday afternoon, Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill called for Paton to be held without bail. Cahill argued there was little to prevent Paton, who owns no property, from fleeing.

Court documents said Paton acknowledged he “had sex with” the resident when questioned by both staff and police, said Cahill, who argued that Paton might present a danger to the public if he were to be freed on bail.

Public defender Michael Shane countered that Paton was a lifelong Vermont resident who had no prior criminal offenses, other than a marijuana possession charge awaiting a court date in New Hampshire.

He argued for releasing Paton under the condition that he remain confined to his mother’s house.

Ultimately, Judge Theresa DiMauro said she attached significance to a portion of the affidavit where Paton told police he “went blank” during the alleged assault.

“That kind of inability to control his behavior makes him a substantial risk to public safety,” DiMauro said, before ordering Paton be held without bail.

“This is everyone’s worst nightmare when they send a loved relative to an assisted-living facility because they just can’t live on their own anymore,” Cahill said after Wednesday’s arraignment. “We trust caregivers to make sure that our loved ones will be treated with respect and dignity, and if the allegations are true, that did not happen in this case.”

Valley Terrace officials said they’re taking the incident “very seriously” and are cooperating with law enforcement on the matter.

The state police affidavit says Paton was a resident assistant whose duties included “taking care of residents, washing them, helping them with dinner and daily activities.”

It’s unclear how long Paton had been employed by Valley Terrace.

“At this time, we want to reassure the community that we are doing everything in our power to address this situation and to guarantee the health, safety and welfare of every resident under our care,” Valley Terrace Executive Director Angela Zizza said in a statement.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.




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