Ben Luna for State's Attorney: the best possible choice

To the Editor:

My name is Nancy Knowles and I am a Domestic Violence survivor. After several assaults by my ex-husband, one including strangulation, and his ensuing arrest, I was suddenly plunged into the criminal justice system of Orleans County. Based on this negative experience, I wish to share why I will not support Jim Lilicrap or Jennifer Barrett for State's Attorney.

The case against my ex husband was assigned to Jim Lilicrap because Alan Franklin had a conflict of interest. I met with Mr. Lillicrap on the afternoon of June 29, 2011, in a conference room at the State's Attorneys office. I requested this meeting because at the eleventh hour I became aware Mr. Lilicrap was offering a deferred sentence (erased from record following probation) to my ex husband ,who had already been granted a deferred sentence in a prior case against another woman. Mr. Lilicrap offered the deferred sentence to defense attorney without any input from me, the crime victim.

During my meeting with Mr. Lillicrap, his demeanor from the very beginning was condescending and upsetting . Upon entering the conference room, he immediately began to interrogate me with irrelevant questions about how I knew certain State Troopers, specific Victim's Advocates, and Alan Franklin. I felt surprised, intimidated, and rather upset by these questions as they seemed to have no purpose for me, a crime victim. I suddenly felt as if I was the accused and had become the person on trial.

Although I despise the use of the word 'victim', as it is now applied to me, there was certainly no indication from Mr. Lillicrap that he regarded me as a 'victim'. He instead seemed to want to make certain, and was very determined, that I would not feel at ease during our meeting. It was almost as if he wanted me to believe I had done something wrong by requesting the meeting with him in the first place. In fact, Mr. Lilicrap's demeanor and approach were IDENTICAL TO MY ABUSER.

Mr. Lillicrap went on to tell me he had met my ex-husband's criminal defense attorney; and how much he liked him because he was a "very nice man." This made me feel as if he and the defense attorney were siding 'against me.'

Mr. Lillicrap spoke rapidly, using legal acronyms and legalese I did not understand. I asked him to please slow down and explain what he meant. He refused. It was clear Mr. Lilicrap had no interest whatsoever in taking any input from me about the case.

Mr. Lillicrap then told me how he believed a deferred sentence was best for my ex-husband and I. When I asked why he replied, "I know what's best for you;" that it would keep me safer than an actual conviction. Mr. Lilicrap refused to listen to my objections even after I told him my ex husband had already been given a deferred sentence in an earlier domestic assault case involving a different victim. I tried explaining that given my ex husband's abusive and violent history, he should receive a permanent record to forewarn future women of his violent past, and how a deferred sentence failed to achieve that. My protests fell on deaf ears.

Mr. Lilicrap went on to tell me how he "disliked" dealing with domestic assault cases and how he had other more "important cases" to deal with, referring to child abuse cases. To add insult to injury he told me how "you would probably be just like all others [women] and end up taking back your ex husband, and then you'll just be back here again in a few months." He also complained about his workload and the system. The message to me was my case would be much easier for him to just flush quickly, rather than take the time to fight for my interest.

One very chilling comment made by Mr. Lillicrap I believe warrants special attention. While pleading with him to please understand that my primary concern regarding the expungement feature of a deferred sentence not only jeopardized my future safety, but the safety of other women; he shot back, "I don't care about any victims in the future."

My voice as a victim of domestic violence was wholly ignored by Mr. Lilicrap. I filed complaints with the Professional Conduct Board among other agencies, and my ex husband's case was transferred to the Caledonia County State's Attorneys Office, where I was treated with incredible professional courtesy. The Caledonia State's Attorneys Office charged him with 13 counts of Domestic Violence, including four felonies. He was convicted of 6 of the 13 charges and now has a permanent criminal record to forewarn future women of his violent history.

My journey was unnecessarily stressful, but the outcome was triumphant. Raising my voice and crying foul was worth it. Nonetheless, I am still frustrated, upset, and angry from being re-victimized by Mr. Lillicrap's condescending treatment towards me. He was intimidating, patronizing, arrogant, disrespectful and rude.

In the interest of full disclosure of my horrific meeting with Mr. Lilicrap, I note there was also a prodigal and aspiring Law Clerk/Deputy State's Attorney present in the room named Jennifer Barrett. A follow up letter I received regarding the investigation into the incident confirmed Ms. Barret was in the room, but she did not believe Mr. Lilicrap behaved in an inappropriate manner, according to the letter.

I urge any woman wearing the same shoes I walked in to never to give up and to make her voice heard. Do not let the system silence you.

In conclusion, I strongly urge everyone to become informed about this very important race for State's Attorney in Orleans County. Read about the issues, speak to the candidates, arm yourselves with the facts and VOTE.

I personally encourage you to vote for Ben Luna, the ONLY candidate with the integrity, the background, and a proven track record of success. His many years of experience in the Caledonia County State's Attorneys Office reflect his respect, empathy, and dedication to crime victims. He is a compassionate and passionate prosecutor. The one who has outlined a clear vision to take the office in a new direction, including a 90 day plan upon taking office. He is the only candidate with the knowledge, leadership skills, and remarkable energy to implement the changes that are so vitally needed in this community.

Nancy Knowles

Newport, Vt.

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