Plea deal for Bristol man rejected
MIDDLEBURY — Addison County District Court Judge Cortland T. Corsones on Tuesday rejected, as too lenient, a proposed plea deal for a 71-year-old-man who was accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old, developmentally disabled Bristol girl last year.
At issue is a case involving Robert J. Boehmer, formerly of Bristol, who had been charged with lewd and lascivious conduct with a child, sexual assault and luring a child — all felonies — in connection with his alleged conduct with a Bristol girl whose family had taken in Boehmer, an acquaintance who had no other place to stay.
In court documents, investigators allege that Boehmer inappropriately touched and engaged in sexual activity with the young teen during a period stretching from November to December of 2008.
The victim was described in court as functioning at the level of a 7- or 8-year-old. The girl, according to family members who spoke at Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, now requires intensive counseling in wake of her ordeal.
Boehmer, according to court records, has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, but was found mentally competent to stand trial.
The Addison County State’s Attorney’s office and Boehmer’s attorney, Jonathan Heppell, had agreed on a plea deal through which Boehmer would spend up to seven years in prison. He would then have been subject to supervision for the rest of his life, according to Heppell.
But members of the victim’s family sharply protested what they said was too lenient a sentence for a man they said had vowed to contact, and marry, the girl after he got out of prison. He has been in jail for the past year.
“To me this is unheard of and very unbelievable and I am shocked,” one of the victim’s relatives said to Corsones. “I ask for a minimum of 15 years.
“Sexually abused children and victims don’t get to be done with the horrifying effects of sexual abuse in seven or even 15 years, they suffer with this every day of their whole lives,” she added.
Another member of the victim’s family said the girl, at the time of the assaults, was less than five feet tall and weighed less than 100 pounds.
“She didn’t look like a woman at all,” she told the court. “She does not have the mind of a teenager at all.”
The girl has already won a civil suit against Boehmer, yielding around $25,000 the victim will be able to access when she turns 18. That’s little compensation, her relatives said, for the anguish the girl continues to face and the lost time from work incurred by relatives who take her to counseling sessions.
Attorney Teri Ames, domestic violence attorney with the Addison County State’s Attorney’s office, said, “This case is about every parent’s nightmare and it is about an extreme abuse of trust.”
Ames said Boehmer deserves to be punished for betraying the victim’s family’s trust and for sexually abusing the girl — acts to which Boehmer confessed to investigators.
“He deserves to be punished severely for that; however the state does recognize that there are some mental health issues involved in this case and the state also recognizes the man is over 70 years old and that the behaviors he engaged in do appear to relate somewhat to his mental illness,” Ames said. “We did take those things into account when we fashioned this plea deal.”
Heppell said the deal would ensure that Boehmer would continue to be supervised and receive sex offender treatment assuming he lives beyond his prison term. He said his client is a military veteran who, because of his charges on sex crimes, has been unable to pin down housing opportunities with veterans’ groups and other organizations. Therefore, there are no other community-based settings where he could be supervised at this point, according to Ames.
“We are not dealing with the average defendant in this case, due to Mr. Boehmer’s age and his onset of dementia,” Heppell told the court. He pointed to a medical evaluation of Boehmer indicating that dementia can be associated with “sexual thoughts and activities.”
He added that while jail would “prevent Mr. Boehmer from engaging in any further unlawful activity, I think an argument could be made that it would be incarcerating somebody for having these impulses due to dementia, which is largely out of his control.”
Heppell argued that because of Boehmer’s age and medical condition, he would be at little risk to re-offend. He said the plea deal would in essence be giving Boehmer supervision, sex offender treatment and probationary conditions for the duration of his life without “effectively giving him a life sentence in jail.”
But Corsones rejected the plea deal, agreeing with the family that the “underlying sentence is not long enough.”
He instead suggested a sentence in the vicinity of three to 15 years, meaning Boehmer would have to spend at least six or seven years in jail and be subject to a longer probationary period.
“I think the long underlying sentence is important so that it is clear, because of the conditions of probation would include that there would be no contact with the victim or girls under the age of 16 years,” Corsones said. “The reason that is so critical in this case is the defendant has made it clear that he believes that the victim should have some hope that he is going to marry her when he gets out.”
Corsones noted that the victim still might not be able to make responsible decisions for herself when Boehmer emerges from jail.
“I think she needs to have the assurance that she is not going to be contacted by Mr. Boehmer so that she can live her life as normally as possible,” Corsones said. “Mr. Boehmer needs to realize that if he violates that, he faces a long underlying sentence.”
Corsones scheduled a new hearing for the case for this Friday, Dec. 18, at which Boehmer could change his plea and/or request a jury trial.