Second Bennington Rural firefighter accused of sexual assault
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | December 28,2012
BENNINGTON — A second member of the Bennington Rural Fire Department was arraigned last week after police said he had sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl who had also accused a captain in the department of having sexual contact with her when she was 13.
Zachary J. Spaulding, 21, of Bennington, was arraigned in Bennington criminal court on Dec. 21 on a felony charge of repeated aggravated sexual assault, a felony charge of sexual assault with no consent and a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Spaulding pleaded innocent and was released without bail.
On Dec. 17, Bryan Watson, 25, of Bennington, was charged in the same court with felony charges of sexual assault on a victim younger than 16 and repeated aggravated sexual assault. He also pleaded innocent.
The charge of repeated aggravated sexual assault, which was filed against Spaulding and Watson, is punishable by up to life in prison.
Detective Anthony Silvestro, of the Bennington Police Department and who investigated both cases as the officer assigned to the Bennington County Special Investigations Unit, said he had interviewed the 14-year-old girl along with Wendy Nolan, an investigator with the Vermont Department of Children and Families, on Nov. 27. During that interview, the girl said Watson had initiated sexual contact with her during the summer of 2011 on more than 10 occasions.
The girl, who was 13 at the time, said she had told Watson “no” on several occasions.
Watson admitted to knowing the girl and being alone with her at times but denied there had been any inappropriate contact, according to an affidavit written by Silvestro.
In a second affidavit, Silvestro said the girl had also talked during the Nov. 17 interview about having sexual contact with Spaulding.
The girl told investigators that there had been two incidents that took place at her home during the summer of 2012. According to the girl, Spaulding had been drinking alcohol before having contact with her.
Silvestro said he also interviewed a 13-year-old friend of the girl Dec. 10. The friend said the girl had told her about having sexual contact with Watson and Spaulding.
When Silvestro interviewed Spaulding on Dec. 18, he also admitted to knowing the girl and spending time with her alone but denied any inappropriate contact.
Neither Watson nor Spaulding have prior criminal records.
On Thursday, there was a hearing in Bennington criminal court during which Jennifer Barrett, a deputy state’s attorney for Bennington County, asked Judge Cortland Corsones to hold Watson without bail because one of the charges against him was punishable by life in prison.
In Vermont, there is a presumption that a person charged with what court personnel refer to as a “life offense” should be held without bail because the possible penalty might cause the defendant to flee.
Jeffrey Rubin, who represented Watson, pointed out his lack of criminal record, the length of time between the alleged sexual assaults, during which no new accusations have been made, and Watson’s strong family ties which include a baby born one week ago.
Corsones released Watson without bail but ordered him to observe a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
In 2008, two members of the Bennington Rural Fire Department, including a first assistant chief, Shawn LaFountain, were accused of having sexual contact with a girl who had been a member of the department’s junior firefighter program. The girl was 15 at the time.
LaFountain pleaded guilty in 2009 and was sentenced to serve three to 10 years in prison. The other man, Colby Harwood, pleaded guilty in 2008. His charges were reduced to misdemeanors and he received a suspended sentence.