A Castleton man will spend at least a year in jail after being convicted of a felony charge of lewd and lascivious conduct for forcing a man with intellectual and learning disabilities to watch him touch himself during a 2015 incident in Fair Haven.
Edward J. Willis, 48, of Castleton, was arraigned on two felony counts of lewd and lascivious conduct in Rutland criminal court in November 2015.
Willis entered an agreement in September 2018 to plead guilty to one of the charges. The sentencing took place on Sept. 24 after the Vermont Department of Corrections’ office of probation and parole conducted a pre-sentence investigation and created a psycho-sexual report.
As part of the plea agreement, Judge Theresa DiMauro sentenced Willis to serve one to two years in prison.
The conviction requires Willis to be placed on the Vermont Sex Offender Registry.
The charges against Willis were based on an affidavit written by Detective Andrew Todd, of the Vermont State Police. Todd said the 19-year-old’s mother reported he had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, Tourette’s disorder, intellectual disability, obsessive-compulsive disorder and a sleep disorder. His IQ was measured at 52, the mother told police.
When Todd and an investigator from Adult Protective Services met with the young man, he said he knew he was there because of “Willis” with whom he had gone fishing at a spot in West Haven known as the “Cogman” or “South Bay.” He called Willis a “very, very, very bad guy.”
The man told investigators that Willis had touched himself and told the man to expose himself. The man said he told Willis to stop while Willis was touching himself.
“I turned my head the other way and covered my eyes because I did not want to see it,” the man told investigators, according to the affidavit.
The man said he was fishing with Willis because he was brought to the Cogman, a well-known fishing spot in West Haven, by his father. But he said Willis didn’t touch himself until the man’s father left for a short time to visit a convenience store, and he didn’t tell his father about the incident because Willis told him not to tell anyone.
Todd said he asked the man what he thought should happen to Willis.
“I want him to go to jail because it wasn’t right what he did. ’Cause he shouldn’t be showing people your private parts,” the man said, according to the affidavit.
Speaking with Willis in Hydeville on Oct. 2, 2015, Willis told Todd he met the man and the man’s father during the summer and began fishing with them during the weekends. Todd said he asked Willis to describe the man and Willis acknowledged that he understood the man was “well, like not normal.”
Willis told Todd he and the man would talk about “girls and stuff” while the man’s father was at the convenience store. He said he “joked around” with the man but denied exposing himself or touching himself.
Todd said Willis admitted to touching himself while at the Cogman but said it only happened when no one else was there. According to the affidavit, Todd identified and interviewed two other people who had witnessed Willis touching himself in public while at the Cogman.
If Willis had been convicted of the charges that were filed in 2015, he could have been sentenced to up to 10 years in jail.