Court orders release of Bennington teenager from adult prison

Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility
A court has ordered a Bennington girl to be released from Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility after being held in the adult prison for 18 days. File photo by Cory Dawson/VTDigger

BENNINGTON — A court on Monday ordered a 15-year-old Bennington girl released from adult prison, saying the prosecution had failed to prove the teenager would be a danger to herself and others .

In a written order, Bennington Superior Court Judge Cortland Corsones on Thursday granted the girl her request to be released from Vermont’s only women’s prison, where she has been held since May 26 on charges of aggravated assault. with weapon.

The Bennington County State’s Attorney’s Office had requested that she be kept in custody due to her increasingly risky and violent behavior over the past year, including in front of law enforcement. .

“The court determines that on the present facts and circumstances, the State has not proven, through clear and convincing evidence, that the release of the defendant poses a substantial threat of physical violence to any person, including the victim. alleged, and that no condition or combination of release conditions will reasonably prevent physical abuse,” Corsones wrote in a three-page decision.

The order came after the teenager’s 18th day at Chittenden Regional Correctional Center, a women’s prison in South Burlington.

VTDigger generally does not name defendants under the age of 18. The girl is named in court documents and appeared in public hearings.

The judge pointed to an improvement in the teenager’s reported behavior since May 20, when police said she had seriously injured her father by repeatedly hitting him on the head with a handgun as he walked was in his driveway. Investigators said the girl, her mother and two other minors drove to the Glastenbury home, and after the parents argued, the group of four assaulted the father.

Police said the gun discharged next to her brother’s head as he tried to pull her away from her.

“At the time of her alleged crimes, the defendant was actively using illegal drugs and was mentally, emotionally and physically unstable,” the judge wrote. “The defendant is now much more stable since being detained and has ‘sobered up’ while incarcerated.”

Corsones cited statements the girl made at her bail review hearing on Thursday, when she told the judge she was now willing to follow the rules of residential treatment programs.

“She is now ready to receive treatment and reside in a staff-secured facility,” he wrote. “The defendant understands that she runs the risk of being reincarcerated, if she is not able to respect her conditions of release.”

The teenager was released into the custody of a family services worker from the Ministry of Children and Families. VTDigger could not confirm on Monday evening where she had been placed.

Under the conditions of his release, he is prohibited from illegally using drugs, using deadly weapons such as guns and having contact with his father. She was only allowed to contact her mother by phone, as long as they did not discuss the criminal case.

The girl’s mother has pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of domestic assault, which carries a sentence of up to 18 months in prison.

The girl, on the other hand, is charged as an adult with two counts of aggravated assault, one more serious than the other. The maximum penalty is 15 years in prison for one count and five years for the other.

Since her arrest on May 26, the girl has been waiting to be transferred to Sununu Youth Services Center, a closed facility in Manchester, New Hampshire, as Vermont currently has no secure facility for minors.

However, there was no space for her at the Sununu center, and state prosecutors said Thursday it could take another two weeks before a space becomes available.

The Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center, the state’s only juvenile prison, was closed in October 2020, amid investigations into the mistreatment of youths held there and the belief that the facility was outdated.

Since the closure of this detention center in Essex, three other minors have been held in adult prisons when no juvenile facility was available, the Department for Children and Families told VTDigger .

The department proposed a detention center in Newbury for juvenile boys, but this plan was delayed because town officials refused to approve the project. The state appealed. The state has not offered any plans for a new detention center in Vermont for young girls.

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