Bridport man draws sentence in sex case

MIDDLEBURY — A Bridport man at a Monday hearing in Addison District Court was sentenced by Judge Helen Toor to six months of house arrest for lewd and lascivious conduct with a child in May 2009.
That six-month sentence given to Jason Ethier, 29, was part of a three-to-15-year suspended sentence agreed to in a plea deal between Ethier’s attorney and state prosecutors for an offense involving a Bristol girl who was 14 at the time.
Ethier will also have to comply with a long list of conditions, including registering as a sex offender and following all sex offender treatment and conditions. Those include undergoing substance abuse evaluation, forgoing computer use, avoiding drugs and limiting alcohol intake, maintaining regular contact with his probation officers, staying away from the victim and other girls under the age of 16, and not having female passengers in his car.
In the plea agreement reached on Jan. 31 for an offense that dates back to May 12, 2009, when Ethier was 27, he pled guilty to a lewd and lascivious conduct charge, while the state’s attorney’s office dropped a charge of sex assault on a person under the age of 16.
According to an affidavit filed by Bristol Police Chief Kevin Gibbs, Ethier and the victim had contact through the Internet and through multiple cell phone calls and texts prior to May 12. They then met at about 5 p.m. that day in the Martin’s Hardware parking lot in Bristol, where they were seen by the victim’s brother.
The victim’s parents then alerted police, who interviewed the victim briefly that evening after Ethier returned her to her home.
Although cell phone records were reviewed in the meantime, follow-up interviews were not conducted until 2010. Police said Ethier took the victim to his home, removed her clothes, bruised her breasts, and that she performed a sex act on him, but they did not engage in intercourse.
The victim said she told Ethier her age, and according to the affidavit the victim’s brother called Ethier’s home repeatedly that evening and left messages saying she was underage. In the affidavit, the victim alleged that she only got in the car because she was scared, and Gibbs wrote that at her home that evening she was “reportedly upset and when questioned said she was touched … in the wrong places.”
Ethier told police the victim told him she was older before May 12 and then also during the evening. His attorney, Devin McLaughlin, wrote in a brief before Monday’s sentencing hearing that the victim “did represent in their electronic communications she was 18,” and that while Ethier at this point acknowledged the crime with his guilty plea that all activity was “consensual.”
McLaughlin also stated that Ethier has been in “a lengthy age-appropriate relationship,” has a steady work history, and that a psychological evaluation conducted by Dr. Thomas Powell prior to Monday’s hearing indicated “Jason’s recidivism risk is very low.”

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