A Castleton man, becoming agitated during his Wednesday sentencing hearing and claiming he had been framed in the case for which a jury found him guilty of all six charges in March, threatened to sue the judge who later sentenced him to serve five to 10 years in jail.
The jury found Scott M. Lafaso, 50, of Castleton, guilty of one felony count of burglary into an occupied home, one felony count of second-degree unlawful restraint, two felony counts of unlawful trespass into an occupied home and one misdemeanor count each of stalking and interference with access to emergency services.
During the sentencing hearing, Judge Thomas Zonay explained why he was going to sentence Lafaso to serve time in prison instead of imposing a sentence under which Lafaso would be released on probation. Lafaso seemed to become agitated, knocking items from the table to the floor.
Lafaso interrupted to ask if he could say something. When Zonay allowed Lafaso to speak, he claimed he had been framed by the brother of the woman he had stalked.
“I’m gonna sue somebody for this, OK? It’s probably gonna start right in this courtroom. That’s all I want to say. This is ridiculous,” he said.
Zonay told Lafaso he had 30 days to appeal the trial verdict and his sentence.
Lafaso was found guilty of all the charges filed against him after a jury trial. Police said their investigation began when a woman, who had once had a relationship with Lafaso, reported in September 2017 that Lafaso had come to her apartment, entered without her permission and wouldn’t leave.
The woman said Lafaso did not live at her apartment and didn’t have a key. She said she believed he had climbed on top of an exterior porch to get inside her apartment.
Earlier in September, Lafaso had come to her home by using a ladder to reach her apartment window.
“He said, ‘Please talk to me. I love you. I don’t care if I get arrested. This is the only way I can talk to you since you changed your number,’” the woman told police.
The woman said Lafaso had a history of telling her, after she told him their relationship was over, “We are over when I say it’s over.”
She said he called her frequently when he was in prison until she was forced to block his calls.
Zonay cited the history when discussing his decision to grant the state’s request for a five to 10 year prison sentence. He said Lafaso’s actions weren’t isolated incidents but “instead represents what can fairly be viewed as a continuation of criminal behavior that has lasted throughout much of his adult life when he didn’t follow the law that has been clearly established.”
“(Lafaso) committed the underlying acts, after he had been told to stop. Not only should he have known the conduct directed at (the woman,) time and time again, was far beyond the pale of acceptable behaviors and unlawful but he had numerous opportunities and interventions to reflect upon what he was doing, to alter it and to stop it,” Zonay said.
Earlier in the hearing, Lafaso apologized to the woman, who was in the courtroom, for “all the terrible things I did to her and said to her.” Lafaso said he would leave the woman alone in the future.
Attorney T. Lamar Enzor, who represents Lafaso, asked Zonay to sentence Lafaso to the two years Lafaso has already spent in jail and a period of probation.
Enzor said he “didn’t want to make light of things by describing Scott as a hopeless romantic.”
“But in the context of ‘love conquers all,’ persistence and sort of lingering hope that there was still something there in the relationship. … This has, it’s no surprise, compelled people at various times to do desperate things,” Enzor said.
Rutland County Deputy State’s Attorney Travis Weaver, while requesting a prison sentence, said on the day Lafaso was arraigned, he had rejected the legitimacy of the criminal charges and said he had “broken into his own apartment to try to get back the woman I love.”
“Even after charges had been filed, he still did not seem to accept what he had done was seriously wrong and again showed that he did not respect the boundaries between him and (the woman) nor did he respect the boundaries between himself and her home,” Weaver said.
The woman read a statement during the sentencing hearing.
“I never wanted him to go to jail. I just wanted him to go away,” she said.
PAWLET —One Pawlet family is finally hitting the road, thanks to their new set of wheels from Good News Garage.
George Wade has been working hard for six years in the Reach-Up program acquiring knowledge, experience and employment assistance, and even attending classes at the Community College of Vermont to learn how to be a production assistant.
Five months ago, with the help of Reach-Up, Wade found full-time employment with Marcille Builders in Bomoseen after working only part-time for a roofing company.
“I found an employment expert. She helped me with résumés and getting into CCV for the college class,” Wade said. “She helped with a lot of things, and she was awesome throughout the whole process. The Reach-Up case manager has been, if I needed anything for work or my daughter ... she was right there. She would point me in the right direction, just working with me having no vehicle and having a daughter I was raising on my own.”
There was a problem, though: His main work site is a 45-minute drive from his family’s home where he and his girlfriend are raising their total of five children, and Wade didn’t have a car.
Which meant he was spending $20 of his paycheck every day for a friend to drive him back and forth.
“There are no buses around here,” said Wade’s girlfriend, Jennifer Birga. “Sometimes he leaves at 4:30 a.m., sometimes at 5. ... Sometimes (his work site) would be an hour away, sometimes four hours away.”
Through his persistence in the Reach-Up program, and the subsequent Reach-Out program, which helps him provide food and resources for himself and his family, Wade became eligible for the Good News Garage, which gives away cars donated by locals to low-income families who might not otherwise have the money to spare for overhead costs and repairs to used cars, not to mention insurance, registration, inspections and roadside assistance, let alone gas.
“While they’re here, learning everything from computer training, to reception, to stocking shelves in the community food shelf that we have,” said Tom Donahue, CEO of BROC Community Action in Southwestern Vermont. “They have to report here, ... We’ve placed jobs in everything from nursing to a legal assistant.”
“Their caseworker advocates on their behalf on why they’re deserving,” said Tom Kupfer, marketing specialist for Good News Garage. “(Those with) children, they get their vehicles the most urgently.”
Good News Garage was at the ready, and Wade’s used 2010 Subaru Outback arrived two days before Independence Day this year.
“He’s very excited,” Birga said. “It’s hard with kids. ... (He’s excited) to take his daughter to the park, (they love) swimming, fishing.”
Donahue said acquiring reliable transportation is essential to maintaining employment, especially in rural areas like Vermont.
“The associated cost of maintaining that transportation is more than most people in poverty or with low income can afford,” Donahue said.
But one has to prove to an employer that they can dress correctly, arrive on time and only call out when necessary to build a good career reputation and references, Donahue said, and for that one needs the time to spend, which makes having transportation at their disposal incredibly important.
“It’s a lifeline of support that is transportation,” Kupfer said. Good News Garage has been giving away free vehicles since 1996. “They can’t get anywhere without a reliable vehicle. It’s a lifeline to move forward to get a job, have access to people who are further away. ... It’s good for children who play sports. ... It’s a life-changing experience when these families get these vehicles. It’s something that makes a huge difference.”
Good News Garage accepts all cars, whether they’re running or not, and works with partnering garages to fix them up however they need to be to pass inspection, which usually costs them between $2,000 and $3,000, Kupfer said.
“We’ll tow it away for free,” Kupfer said.
Then once the car is delivered, the new owner is taught how to maintain it, and given a one-year warrantee of free maintenance including tire rotation and head-gasket repairs.
The donors receive a tax donation of at least $500, and in some cases can take the free market value as a write-off, and when the cars that can’t be fixed up or are unusable are sold at auction, the proceeds go back to Good News Garage, which gives away at least one car every week.
This year, Good News surpassed the gift of their 5,000th car.
“We accept all types of cars, trucks, SUVs, boats, motorcycles, mopeds, RVs ... anything to help get a family into a reliable car.”
Ideal cars to be renovated are reasonable family-sized cars, including Subarus, RAV4s and other small SUVs.
“We’ll take luxury cars or vehicles, but they’re often not practical,” Kupfer said. “Something that’s had a good life and still has mileage left on it.”
Donations at present are around 1,200 cars per year, 150 of which are usable, but the national need is continuing to grow, Kupfer said.
A Washington Street man was held without bail Monday after police said Shawn Jones, who had been accused of assaulting a woman at his home, returned to the home on the day of his arrest and the next day even though a judge had ordered him to stay away from the woman.
Shawn W. Jones, 35, of Rutland, pleaded not guilty on Monday to a felony charge of first-degree aggravated domestic assault, a misdemeanor charge of domestic assault and two misdemeanor charges of violation of an abuse prevention order.
In an affidavit, Officer Tyler Billings, of the Rutland City Police Department, said he was dispatched to a report of a family fight on East Washington Street around 4 a.m. June 29.
Billings said he spoke with Jones while another officer spoke with the woman who reported the alleged incident.
“When I asked Shawn what was going on, he stated, ‘She just attacked me, and you might as well throw me in cuffs.’ When I asked Shawn why would I put him in cuffs, he stated, ‘Because she just attacked me. I just put her on the floor, and I said stop hitting me, stop punching me. I banged her head on the floor, and I know I am going to jail for it, and I’ve never been to jail,’” Billings wrote in the affidavit.
Billings said Jones told him the fight between himself and the woman started because the woman’s son had said something by text that he believed was disrespectful, and he was unhappy the woman hadn’t defended him.
Jones told police he took the woman’s phone and the alleged physical altercation started when she came at him to get the phone back.
Billings said Jones told him that he bounced (the woman’s) head off the floor, and then asked, “What kind of man does that?”
The woman described the events in a similar way, but said Jones kicked her in the head and stomach at one point during their altercation and said after he forced her to the ground by grabbing her hair, he hit her head on the ground five or six times.
Billings reported that Jones said to him on the way to the police station to be processed, “I went too far, though, right?”
In a separate affidavit, Officer Misty Klementowski, of the Rutland City Police Department, said she was dispatched to Washington Street around 6:50 a.m. June 29.
Klementowski said when she spotted Jones, with whom she was familiar from previous law-enforcement encounters, he told her “he had no place to go and wanted his wallet.” She said he acknowledged “he was where he wasn’t supposed to be.”
On June 30, about 19 hours after Jones was arrested for allegedly violating the court order, the woman told police he had been at the home again. She said he had been driving slowly by in a truck.
During Jones’ arraignment, Rutland County Deputy State’s Attorney Daron Raleigh asked Judge Thomas Zonay to hold Jones without bail. Raleigh said the state was concerned that Jones could be a threat to the woman involved in the alleged incident and her family.
Attorney Chris Davis, who represents Jones, pointed out his client has no criminal record. He said Jones was arrested for the second time June 29 when he was near the home where he was not allowed to be but farther along on the same street.
Raleigh argued that incidents of domestic violence “don’t always make a rap sheet.”
Zonay cited the accusations that Jones had violated court orders within hours of the orders being presented to Jones as a reason to hold him without bail.
If convicted of all the charges against him, Jones could be sentenced to more than 18 years in prison.