A Vermont judge has accepted a plea deal for a former member of the Vermont National Guard accused of sexually and physically assaulting three women. The agreement allowed Daniel Blodgett to walk out of the courtroom with no additional jail time to serve.
The three victims of Blodgett’s crimes all gave statements during his sentencing hearing Thursday in Franklin County Superior Criminal Court in St. Albans. Each said they were unhappy with the plea deal and believed he would do it again.
“There are no words to describe the feeling after waking up exposed, sore, bleeding and wearing a different t-shirt than I remember wearing before and with a naked offender lying next to me” , one of the women told the judge.
“The first thought that came to mind was, ‘I told him no,'” she said. “I remember saying the word ‘no’ so many times that it didn’t sound like a word anymore, it felt like a plea.”
Blodgett, 35, who lived in Franklin County, pleaded not guilty in early 2021 to multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault and aggravated domestic assault, court records show. The offenses took place while he was off duty.
He was held in prison awaiting trial for about a year before his eventual release under conditions including electronic monitoring.
The sentence, as agreed to by the prosecution and Blodgett’s attorney, calls for Blodgett to serve three to 25 years in prison, all suspended and served on probation.
Blodgett, as part of the deal, had earlier this year pleaded guilty to several charges, some of which were reduced or amended from what was originally filed.
In total, Blodgett pleaded guilty to five counts: two misdemeanor counts of prohibited driving, two felony counts of first-degree aggravated assault, and one charge of sexual assault.
Each of the women spoke in their statements about the pain, trauma and hurt that Blodgett has inflicted on them. All said they thought he got off easy with the plea deal and feared he would do it again and hurt others.
As a general rule, VTDigger does not name victims of sexual assault without their consent.
Superior Court Judge Martin Maley, after listening to the women’s statements, said it did not appear to him that they were in favor of the plea deal.
Franklin County Assistant State’s Attorney Diane Wheeler told the judge that while the deal wasn’t ideal, the victims said they could support it to help end it – provided strict probation conditions are in place.
“Everyone thinks Mr. Blodgett should be incarcerated for a lot longer,” Wheeler told the judge.
“The only way to do that is to have a trial,” Maley replied.
“It’s true,” Wheeler said, “and that’s where they started supporting the probation deal, so it won’t be necessary for them.”
As a result of the plea deal, Wheeler said, Blodgett will have to be placed on the sex offender registry for life. His terms of probation call for him to participate in sex offender treatment.
The judge said that although the deal was “not perfect”, he was willing to accept it.
“I will say that the offenses here are extremely serious and obviously extremely damaging to the victims who, of course, are still suffering the effects of Mr. Blodgett’s offense,” Maley said.
The judge said he understood it wasn’t a particularly punitive sentence and likely wouldn’t be a deterrent to others, and possibly not even Blodgett.
“If I was a player, I’d say he’s reoffending somehow,” Judge said of Blodgett.
However, Maley said, he also understood that the plea deal avoids a trial. And, the judge said, if Blodgett violated the terms of his probation, he would have up to 25 years in prison hanging over his head.
“Will this be a rehabilitation sentence for Mr. Blodgett? asked the judge. “I hope so. I hope he succeeds because it means the public will be protected.
Rosie Chase, a public defender representing Blodgett, said her client was looking forward to getting his life back together and “hope that with this sentence he can do it”.
Blodgett also spoke briefly, saying he felt sorry for each of the three women.
Seven Days reported in March 2021 on the cases and allegations against Blodgett, then a sergeant in the Vermont National Guard.
Seven Days detailed how one of Blodgett’s victims said she had been friends with Blodgett and let him stay at her house while he dealt with financial issues. One night, she told the newspaper, he repeatedly tried to get her to take cocaine and have sex with him, which she repeatedly refused, before assaulting her. .
About a month after that report was released, the Guard reported that Blodgett was no longer with the service, adding that confidentiality rules prevented the release of any other specific information about how and when Blodgett left the Guard.
A Guard spokesman, Marcus Tracy, declined Thursday to provide further details of Blodgett’s departure.
The Seven Days report highlighted Blodgett’s extensive criminal record and allegations of sexual assault and violence, including eight misdemeanor convictions. The story also revealed that Blodgett had joined the Watch some 15 years earlier, and the Watch was largely unaware of Blodgett’s criminal acts.
At a City Hall event shortly after this story was published, Adjutant General Gregory Knight called the charges against Blodgett “despicable.”
“The actions described have no place in the Vermont National Guard or our military,” he said at the time. “Anyone who chooses to behave in this way does not deserve to be in uniform.”
VTDigger published a seven-part series in 2018 chronicling the Guard’s past failures to crack down on sexual misconduct within its ranks.
In 2020, the Guard worked with lawmakers to create provost marshal positions, which help bridge the gaps between civilian law enforcement and the Guard “in terms of when members choose to act contrary to military values and hold them accountable,” Tracy wrote in an email. Thursday at VTDigger.
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