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February 27, 2017

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Lawmaker reaches plea deal as sex-assault trial set to start

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Gregory J. Lamoureux / County Courier via AP

In a Wednesday, June 15, 2016 file photo, Vermont state Sen. Norman McAllister sits in court during the first day of his trial on two counts of sexual assault, in St. Albans, Vt. The lawyer for the accuser in McAllister’s rape trial says the state decided to drop the charges after the accuser admitted outside the courtroom that she had lied on the witness stand about something not central to the case. That admitted lie came on top of numerous inconsistencies in five sworn statements the accuser gave in the case against McAllister.

ST. ALBANS, Vt. — A former state lawmaker accused of trying to extract sexual favors in exchange for rent agreed to a plea deal on the eve of trial and faces possible prison time.

Republican former state Sen. Norman McAllister was charged with sexual assault. He pleaded no contest to prohibited acts and lewd and lascivious conduct. He faces up to seven years in prison.

A jury was seated Tuesday, and trial was supposed to start Wednesday. But McAllister reached a plea deal in which prosecutors dropped the most serious sexual-assault charge.

McAllister will be sentenced later.

Charges were dismissed against McAllister in a sexual-assault trial involving a different accuser who lied last year. McAllister had been accused of forcing the woman into oral sex and intercourse at his home farm, where she worked.

McAllister, whose colleagues voted to suspend him after his arrest, had maintained his innocence. He sat stoically at the defense table as the woman testified he forced her to have sex in a barn.

But one of McAllister's defense lawyers got the woman to acknowledge she had changed key aspects of her story.

The lawyer for the accuser said the state decided to drop the charges after the woman admitted outside the courtroom she had lied on the witness stand.

The prosecutor in that aborted trial said the woman accusing McAllister of rape lied once in her testimony and expressed remorse immediately afterward.

Deputy State's Attorney Diane Wheeler said the woman told a state's attorney's office staff member just after the first day of testimony ended that she had lied when she denied that she had befriended and kissed a man she worked with on McAllister's farm.

McAllister's lawyer said the real reason charges were dropped was there were numerous inconsistencies in her sworn statements.

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