Failing to take Jacques seriously

Opinion | Commentary                                                                                    Charles Laramie

May 25,2014

On May 20, Michael Jacques was sentenced to life plus 70 years. Once again Jacques stood in a court of law apologizing for his actions. People should not take Jacques’ apology seriously but realize instead that it’s as empty as the one he offered to Judge Amy Davenport in a parole hearing when Jacques told her he was a changed man.

Michael Jacques first came into contact with the Vermont legal system in 1985, when he was charged with lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor.

Jacques engaged in more than 100 sex acts with an underage female relative starting when she was 8 until she became pregnant at 15 and had an abortion. This case was dropped when the victim refused to testify. No reason was given for this refusal.

In 1986 when Jacques was 20 he was charged with sexual assault on a minor. The victim was the 13-year-old girlfriend of Jacques’ 13-year-old brother. Jacques had an apartment in Barre where he was known to provide alcohol and drugs to minors. During one of these parties, police said, he sexually assaulted the minor.

Ultimately not taking this case seriously enough or looking at his previous history, the court gave Jacques a deferred sentence for lewd and lascivious conduct and ordered him to serve five years on probation. It’s unlikely that this was followed through on, as there are no official records of this.

The justice system was still not taking Jacques seriously.

In 1992 Jacques abducted an 18-year-old woman, a co-worker, after she left a Barre bar. He handcuffed her, tied a rope around her neck and forced her to engage in a series of sex acts throughout the night, at times holding a knife to her throat and threatening to kill her.

Jacques let the woman go, stating he needed to see a psychiatrist. The police arrested Jacques, and he was charged with kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and simple assault. Jacques received a prison term of six to 20 years all suspended but for six years.

The justice system was still not taking Jacques seriously.

In reading this story a person might think that up to this point in his life Michael Jacques had sexually assaulted three women, and had been caught each time. Having worked with sex offenders for 16 years, I know that the likelihood of that is inconceivable. The fact is it’s highly probable that before he was caught in 1985-86, and again after that until he was arrested in 1992, Jacques had a long list of victims that until this day have not come forward. No one should be surprised by this. Few victims ever report that they were sexually assaulted.

According to records, Jacques was a model prisoner and voluntarily completed a sex offender program while in prison. However he was released several months before the program actually ended and therefore he never really completed it. Because of this, he served just over four years, 404 days of which were served in pre-trial detention. He was released from prison in August 1996.

The justice system was still not taking Jacques seriously.

In 2004, in considering a request by Jacques for a reduction in his probation, Judge Amy Davenport stated that “according to Mr. Jacques’ probation officer, Richard Kearney, Jacques is a probation success story.” He was married and had a child.

Jacques’s attorney, Kevin Griffin, told Judge Davenport that Jacques “had undergone an extraordinary change in personal circumstances.” Jacques’s wife said that he had become a role model for his stepdaughter and made her a better mother, that he was no longer the same person who had committed those crimes.

Jacques, speaking on his own behalf, repeated a paragraph he had memorized directly from the pages of a treatment textbook. Based on this testimony, Judge Davenport ruled that if Jacques did not violate the conditions of his release his probation would end in 2006. It was not supposed to end until 2013.

Kearney’s statement that Jacques was a probation success story flies in the face of reason when compared to the statements of Jacques’ previous probation officer, Paul McNaughton, who in 1997 asked Judge David Suntag to increase Jacques’s probation conditions. McNaughton gave the judge a long list of Jacques’ false statements, describing Jacques as a chronic deceiver and misrepresenter of the facts.

McNaughton stated that at a party Jacques had disrobed and raped an unconscious woman. No investigation or charges were brought in that incident. McNaughton also stated that Jacques had told an employer that his conviction on the rape charge in 1992 was for date rape.

Sadly, Jacques seemed to understand that somehow people in our society question this charge and it wouldn’t be held against him like a charge of kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault. As a result of McNaughton’s request, Judge Suntag added 19 more conditions to Jacques’ probation.

In August 1997, a year after Jacques was released from prison, the Department of Corrections filed a violation of probation in that Jacques was living in a household with a 3-year-old child. According to his probation Jacques could not be alone with children under the age of 16. Jacques was sentenced to four days on a work crew and then was given permission to go on living in the same household with the 3-year-old.

To a sex offender this behavior confirms what he already believes: that society doesn’t take the crimes he was convicted of seriously. To be sentenced to four days on a work crew and then to be allowed to continue the same behavior that got him in trouble did not send the right message. This is especially true when the state ignores its own child safety laws and leaves a 3-year-old living with a convicted rapist in direct violation of his probation.

The justice system was still not taking Jacques seriously.

In 2005 Jacques was convicted in New Hampshire for violation of the sex offender registry. Jacques was working in Hanover and had previously signed an offender registration form stating he understood that each year within 30 days of his birthday he was to update his registry information. Jacques said this was a simple misunderstanding. According to Judge Davenport’s 2004 ruling, this violated Jacques’s probation and the conditions of his release and his probation should not have ended in 2006 but should have continued until 2013.

However, Mr. Kearney would later testify before the Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee that he did not think it was important to report Jacques’ violation to the court, it being a minor technicality. Therefore Orange County Judge Patricia Zimmerman did not have this information on Dec. 2, 2006, when she released Jacques from probation.

The justice system was still not taking Jacques seriously.

The first thing I learned in working with sex offenders was to verify everything they say and do. Sex offenders see kindness as weakness and weaknesses are to be exploited. Jacques clearly exploited Mr. Kearney, Mr. Griffin, his wife and Judge Davenport.

On June 30, 2008, Jacques was charged with repeated aggravated sexual assaults for the sexual abuse of a minor beginning in October 2003 when the victim was nine until June of 2008.

On July 1, 2008, Jacques was charged by federal authorities with the kidnap and rape of his niece, Brooke Bennett. On July 7, 2008, the Orange County state’s attorney dismissed the aggravated sexual assault charge against Jacques.

Too late for 12-year-old Brooke Bennett — the justice system now had no choice but to take Michael Jacques seriously.

Richard Kearney, Kevin Griffin, Judge Amy Davenport, Jacques’ wife, the Vermont judicial system, to name but a few, are directly responsible for Brooke Bennett’s death and for all those victims of Michael Jacques who are alive and living silently with what he did to them. It’s unlikely we will ever know how many victims Jacques has, but I suspect they run into the dozens and likely more than that.

In 2003 a 9-year-old began to experience the horror of Michael Jacques. In 2004 Richard Kearny, Kevin Griffin and Jacques’ wife spoke of a success story, of a changed man, a role model, all this while Jacques laughed at them and continued to feed on his prey.

This should make it clear that there is no such thing as a low-risk offender. This should make it clear that treatment only works if the offender really wants to change. This should make it clear that people should not believe the low rates of recidivism touted by so-called experts because in reality it’s impossible to determine if a person will or has re-offended.

We are all responsible for speaking out, for not keeping silent, for teaching our children to respect others and to refuse to stand by while sexual abuse takes place.