Man convicted of stalking and another stalking charge is pending
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | May 02,2013
BENNINGTON — A jury convicted a Jacks Drive man Tuesday of stalking and violating an abuse prevention order and the man has similar charges pending in the same court.
Justin Sweet, 23, of Bennington, was arraigned in Bennington criminal court in March 2012 on a misdemeanor charge of stalking and six misdemeanor counts of violating an abuse prevention order.
On Tuesday, there was a trial in the case. The jury convicted Sweet of stalking and three of the counts of violating an abuse prevention order.
The charges were based on an affidavit filed by Sgt. Michael Plusch, of the Bennington Police Department, who became involved in the case March 13, 2012. Plusch said he met with a woman who told him that she had an abuse prevention order against Sweet issued March 11, 2012, but that Sweet had driven by her workplace six times within an hour.
“She further advised that every time he would drive by, he would stop in front of the store and rev his motor,” Plusch said.
Plusch said he spoke with Sweet on March 14, 2012, and Sweet admitted to being on that street but said it was a street he commonly used.
More charges were filed against Sweet in July 2012 after an investigation by Justin Niles, who was then the investigator for the Bennington County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Niles said he met with the woman May 21, 2012, and she reported another 17 incidents of Sweet allegedly violating the order that had gone from a temporary order to a final order March 16, 2012. The final order included conditions that Sweet not stalk the woman or go within 300 feet of her workplace, car or home.
The woman said Sweet had primarily continued to drive by her workplace but instead of simply passing by, continued to stop, “revving the engine” and looking inside.
According to the woman, Sweet followed her from Depot Street to Route 7 on April 8, 2012. She said he drove past her so closely she was concerned he would hit her side mirror and “revved the engine” as he passed.
Niles said the woman told him she was concerned for her life because Sweet once told her he “knew the perfect place to bury her body.”
The woman also told Niles she had gone to police about Sweet’s behavior three times since he was arrested in March 2012.
After Sweet’s conviction Tuesday, Christopher Montgomery, who represented Sweet, asked Judge Cortland Corsones to set aside the verdict on the stalking charge. Montgomery said Wednesday that he believed the jury had made an error convicting his client because the standard for conviction on the stalking charge was higher than the standard for the other charges.
Bennington County Deputy State’s Attorney Jennifer Barrett said Wednesday that one of the elements of stalking is that a reasonable person would fear bodily injury.
Because the woman reported two violations of an abuse prevention order within two hours of each other the day after it was issued, she said she believed the jury was convinced the woman was in fear of bodily injury.
While Corsones has not ruled on Montgomery’s motion, a sentencing from Tuesday’s trial is scheduled for May 31.
The next hearing for Sweet’s pending charges is May 10. In that case, Sweet is charged with a felony count of stalking because he is accused of stalking the woman in direct violation of an abuse prevention order which specifically orders Sweet not to stalk the woman.
There are also 17 charges of violating the abuse prevention order in the pending case.