Former teacher’s aide accused of sex with student held without bail
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | August 30,2014
BENNINGTON — A former teacher’s aide at a residential school who is facing charges she had sexual encounters with a 15-year-old student will be held without bail, but her attorney is arguing that the state is missing key evidence.
Alexandra Fusco, 25, of Bennington, was arraigned in Bennington criminal court Aug. 19 on three felony counts. Fusco pleaded innocent to one charge each of aggravated repeated sexual assault on a child, sexual assault on a person younger than 16 who was in her care and lewd and lascivious conduct.
The charge of aggravated sexual assault on a child carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison.
Police said a 16-year-old boy told them he had sex with Fusco last year after he had been placed by the Vermont Department for Children and Families at the Bennington School, a residential school for troubled young people.
In an audio-recorded interview that was played in court Friday, the boy said Fusco, who worked at the school at the time, had initiated a sexual encounter with him. While Vermont law does not allow a 15-year-old to consent to sexual contact with an adult, the boy said he participated willingly.
According to the boy, he had sexual contact with her a second time in Swanton. The boy said he had run away from the Bennington School at the time and was staying with his girlfriend, but Fusco contacted him through a social media website.
Fusco is also accused of sending nude photos of herself by Internet to a boy who was 15 or 16 at the time.
Officials at the Bennington School told police that Fusco had been fired in October for having nonprofessional contact with students at the school through social media.
After a hearing on Friday, Judge Nancy Corsones issued a decision that said Fusco would be held in prison until the charges are resolved.
Corsones rejected the suggestion by attorney James Valente, who represented Fusco on Friday, that she could be released and ordered not to use social media sites to contact young men.
“When a person has been charged with felony sexually assaultive acts with underage children who were entrusted to their care by operation of law and it is argued that this defendant has sent naked pictures of herself to another child, that she communicates with at least two other adolescent boys (yet denies that communication to police) (Fusco’s) potential access to social media and electronic communication represents a heightened risk of potential harm to an unlimited number of adolescents,” Corsones wrote in her decision about Fusco.
Valente, however, argued that the state’s case was weak. He said police had looked at her cellphone records and found no evidence it had been used in Swanton and hadn’t been able to produce records of any messages sent between Fusco and any of the boys who have accused her.
During the hearing on Friday, Valente pointed out that when the recorded interview was played, the boy denied several times that he had a second sexual encounter with Fusco until one of the investigators asked him about a second incident which allegedly happened after he ran away.
Corsones said in her decision that the boy’s explanation that he didn’t want to get Fusco in more trouble “made sense.”
Bennington County State’s Attorney Erica Marthage said during the hearing that the state believed Fusco needed to be held in jail because she was an “Internet predator” and would be able to reach young men no matter where she was if she was not in custody.
The Bennington School is a privately run school that is not connected to the town’s public schools or Bennington College.