By Eric Francis, Standard Correspondent
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — The jury considering child sex charges against a former Woodstock police officer announced they were deadlocked Wednesday evening following approximately five hours of deliberations but the judge asked them to go home and sleep on it before returning Thursday morning for one more try at reaching a unanimous verdict.
Following closing arguments the jury had received the case and begun their initial round of deliberations at 3:45 p.m. with only a couple of breaks to ask a question, give the smokers amongst them a chance to step outside for a cigarette and to have a brief dinner but at 8:20 p.m. the foreman sent a note to Judge Robert Gerety suggesting further progress toward a verdict was unlikely.
Richard “Rick” Kelley, 57, a former Marine and now a resident of Pawlet, had served over the years in a number of law enforcement positions across Vermont beginning as a corrections officer for the state and going on to be police officer in Rutland, Ludlow and Woodstock before eventually joining the Windsor County Sheriff’s Department. While a deputy sheriff, Kelley had risen to the rank of Captain, the second-in-command position, during his 13-year career there before the sudden appearance of the sexual impropriety allegations involving two young girls first surfaced in July 2010 and eventually led to his resignation from the sheriff’s department in October of that year.
Though both accusers were girls that Kelley had access to a series of legal motions over the past couple of years led to their cases being separated with the current case being tried at the Windsor County Courthouse in downtown White River Junction and the second case still tracking toward an eventual second trial at the Orange County Courthouse in Chelsea.
Though Kelley faces two felony counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child in the Windsor County case and just a single count of the same charge in the Orange County case, both sides this week were at pains not to mention or even hint at the existence of a second accuser/victim for fear of tainting the jury’s impartiality during their deliberations on the active case.
Wednesday was the third day of the current trial and the afternoon began with the closing arguments of both sides.
Vermont Assistant Attorney General Cathy Norman began her remarks to the jury with a quote to investigators from the teen who made the accusation, “I was afraid no one would believe me because he was a police officer…”
The victim had described having her chest groped on a single occasion when she was alone in a room with Kelley in the spring of 2009 and she described an even more disturbing lewd act that Kelley allegedly performed on her “three or four” times when she found herself alone with him in a residence in Woodstock during the 2007-2008 time frame. The girl, who is now a teenager living out of state, testified that she would have been between the ages of 9 and 12 when the various sexually oriented encounters allegedly occurred.
When it came his turn to address the jury, defense attorney Brian Marsicovetere, suggested that the teen had ulterior motives for the accusations she first lodged against Kelley in 2010 and he noted that in her initial interviews with out-of-state investigators she had reported that Kelley had molested her up to 22 times rather than the three or four times that she testified to in court in White River Junction on Tuesday.
“It’s not just about what she said (happened). It’s about the evidence,” Marsicovetere argued, continuing, “It’s not a simple as (she) told you he did it.”
“The time has come to take this gentleman out of the frying pan,” Marsicovetere urged the seven women and five men on the jury, adding a short time later, “It’s a heck of a lot easier to take a wad of mud and throw it at someone than it is to clean it up.”
Norman had the final word before the jury began its formal deliberations just before 4 p.m. and she took the podium and said simply of the teen who had taken the witness stand the day before, “If you find her credible it is enough that she told you.”