Pownal man accused of trying to lure pre-teens into sexual acts
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | November 29,2012
BENNINGTON — A Pownal man was arraigned Wednesday on two felony charges after police said he had tried to convince two pre-teen girls to take off their clothes in his presence Oct. 28 in Bennington.
Richard J. Keus, 46, of Pownal, pleaded innocent to two felony counts of attempting to lure a child into sexual exploitation. Keus was released without bail.
In an affidavit, Detective Anthony Silvestro, of the Bennington Police Department, said he and Kyle Hoover, an investigator with the Vermont Department of Children and Families, interviewed an 11-year-old girl at the Bennington County Child Advocacy Center on Oct. 31.
The girl said that on Oct. 28, she was spending the night at the home of a 12-year-old friend. The girl said her friend’s mother, the mother’s friend and Keus were in the home.
According to the girl, after the mother and her friend went into another room, Keus tried to get her and her 12-year-old friend to take their clothes off but they refused.
The girl told investigators that Keus also tried to get them to smoke cigarettes and drink beer. She said he became angry because he thought they hid his beer so he chased them both inside and outside the home.
The girl said “it was scary” so they called a neighbor, who was also a relative of the 12-year-old girl, to come get them. Before the relative arrived, Keus left but the girl said he called her, her friend and her friend’s mother obscene names before leaving.
The friend’s mother took them to the police station to report the incident, she said.
The 12-year-old, who was interviewed by the same investigators, told them a similar story. She also accused Keus of trying to get them to smoke cigarettes, drink beer and take off their clothes but said they refused all of his efforts.
The older girl said it was her mother who hid Keus’ beer in an effort to get him to leave.
Silvestro said the 12-year-old’s relative confirmed that the girl had asked her to come get the girl and her friend and that she told her that Keus had asked her and her friend to take their clothes off.
According to the affidavit, Silvestro interviewed Keus at the Bennington police station on Tuesday.
Keus said the girls had “started talking dirty to him” and told him they were going to take their clothes off. He said he went into the other room to tell the 12-year-old girl’s mother and that’s when the girls accused him.
According to the affidavit, Keus has an extensive criminal history with 26 convictions for misdemeanors and three convictions for felonies with nine of the 29 convictions for violent crimes.
Attorney Jeffrey Rubin, who represented Keus, challenged the charge against his client because there was no indication that Keus had actually touched either of the girls. Rubin suggested the proper charge might be solicitation which is a misdemeanor.
However, Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Christina Rainville said she had researched the statute and believed that the charge fit the allegation. She referenced a Vermont Supreme Court decision upholding a conviction in which a child was ordered to commit a lewd act without being touched by anyone else.
Judge Cortland Corsones upheld his decision to find probable cause to move forward with the case. He also agreed with the state’s request that Keus be required to check-in daily with the Bennington police and that he not be allowed to drink alcohol or contact the girls.