Former Vermont Law School student pleads not guilty to sexual assault

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/5/2019 10:07:27 PM
Modified: 12/5/2019 10:07:16 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — A former Vermont Law School student is accused of sexually assaulting a fellow student at her house last year, according to Windsor County prosecutors.

Christopher Meritt, 27, who graduated from the law school in the spring, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to one felony count of sexual assault without consent. A Windsor Superior Court judge released Meritt on conditions including no contact with the woman. He is next due in court in January.

The woman told police that she got a late-night call from Meritt in August 2018, asking if he could come over and “hang out,” according to an affidavit written by Vermont State Police Sgt. Kevin Hughes.

The victim agreed because she considered Meritt a friend at the time. They had met during the beginning of his time at VLS and the two of them had previously had a brief sexual relationship, according to the affidavit.

When he arrived about 30 minutes later, Meritt was drunk, according to the affidavit, and he eventually pushed the woman into her bedroom, despite the fact she told him she didn’t want to have sex. He then removed her clothing and sexually assaulted her, holding onto her so she couldn’t get away, the affidavit said.

Meritt did not leave until the next morning, at which point the woman went to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, where doctors administered a rape kit. She also gave police a condom Meritt had allegedly used during the assault. Investigators with Vermont Law School’s human resources department told Meritt about the complaint, and he said he “didn’t interpret the interaction with (the woman) that way,” according to the affidavit.

A call to Meritt earlier this week was not returned.

Meritt was cited for sexual assault Nov. 27, more than a year after the encounter. In an interview Wednesday, Hughes said the time frame is not unusual for a sexual assault case, adding that state police had to gather evidence and follow up on interviews before they could bring the investigation to prosecutors to file charges.

In an email Wednesday, Windsor County Deputy State’s Attorney Heidi Remick said she didn’t receive the case file until last month and that the prosecutor’s office filed charges immediately thereafter. She said state police likely didn’t have the resources to complete the investigation earlier.

Meritt is originally from Houston and graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia before starting at Vermont Law School in 2016, according to his LinkedIn profile. A VLS spokesman confirmed that he graduated in May. He currently works as a supervisor at a food mart in Hartford, according to LinkedIn.

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




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