High court upholds lengthy prison sentence
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | November 15,2012
A man sentenced to serve up to 85 years in prison for raping a Rutland woman lost an appeal to have the length of his sentence reduced.
In a two-page ruling, the Vermont Supreme Court held that the 45- to 85-year sentence Joseph Bruyette received in 1990 on a felony count of burglary and three felony counts of sexual assault didn’t constitute an illegal piling on of offenses.
A dogged jailhouse lawyer, Bruyette, 45, has filed many unsuccessful appeals and motions in state courts seeking to overturn his convictions.
Earlier this year, Bruyette argued that the sentences for burglary and sexual assault he received were illegal because they amounted to double jeopardy — the prohibited practice of punishing a person twice for the same crime.
When that motion was denied by a lower court, Bruyette appealed to the Supreme Court, which decided this month to uphold his sentence.
In their ruling, reached by a three-judge panel, the justices found that the sentence Bruyette received for the burglary portion of his crime was not a superfluous charge because the essential elements of the charge were different from the sexual assault counts.
“The offenses each contain unique elements and there was no double jeopardy bar to convicting defendant of both offenses,” the justices wrote in the ruling.
A jury found Bruyette guilty of breaking into a 23-year-old woman’s apartment on Hopkins Street in Rutland in April 1987. He bound and gagged the woman and then repeatedly raped her, according to court records. He also took her outside, tying her to a tree and continuing the assault.
Bruyette was arrested a week later when his girlfriend told police she believed he was the person who committed the assault. She told police Bruyette asked her to cut off his beard in the days after the assault.
Bruyette’s girlfriend also talked about the “offbeat” sexual relations she had with him which police said were similar to what he did to the victim.