Local man charged with sex crimes

MIDDLEBURY — Austin Burnett, a 21-year-old Middlebury man, pleaded innocent on June 19 in Chittenden Superior Court, criminal division, to three felony counts of sexual assault without consent, in connection with alleged encounters he had with three separate teenage girls during the past two years.
The charges are the culmination of three separate investigations: One by Det. Lt. Ruth Whitney of the Addison County Unit for Special Investigations, and two by Det. Kris Bowdish of the Middlebury Police Department.
One of the cases involves allegations that a then-19-year-old Burnett had sexual relations with a 15-year-old girl between Oct. 31 and Nov. 16, 2013, according to court records. The age of consent in the state of Vermont is 16. Bowdish, in her court affidavit, indicated Middlebury police pursued the case after reviewing an explicit and quarrelsome Facebook Messenger conversation between the alleged victim and Burnett that allegedly took place this past May, according to court records.
A second case keys on allegations that Burnett had sexual relations last year with another 15-year-old girl, this time during the summer of 2014 when Burnett was 20, according to court records. One of the alleged seven sexual encounters took place “upstairs in the (Ilsley) Library,” while another allegedly occurred in the “teen center in Middlebury,” according to a court affidavit prepared by Whitney.
The third case centers on allegations that Burnett had sexual relations earlier this year without the consent of a 19-year-old girl at a home in Middlebury. The victim told investigators she was a friend of Burnett’s and that he and she were at a mutual friend’s house when the alleged incident occurred, according to Bowdish’s court affidavit.
The victim told police that she had lain down in a bed to rest and alleged that Burnett eventually got into the bed seeking to have sex with her, according to court records.
The girl allegedly told Burnett multiple times she did not want to have sex with him and was ultimately able to push him off, according to court records.
Following the incident, Burnett allegedly sent the victim suggestive messages via Facebook, according to court records.
Investigators interviewed Burnett in all three cases, according to court records. In one of the cases involving a 15-year-old girl, Burnett allegedly indicated to Whitney that “… he knew what the age of consent was, but said when it’s right there in front of you it’s hard to say no,” according to court records.
Burnett faces a potential prison term of three years to life and/or a fine of up to $25,000 for each of the three felony sex assault charges, if convicted.

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