WHITE RIVER JUNCTION - A residential assistant at a nursing home in Wilder who was arrested in April of last year after he confessed to having sex with an 83-year-old dementia patient will spend over two-and-a-half years behind bars before he is released on probation.
Michael Paton Jr., 24, of East Thetford was given a 10-to-20 year sentence on Monday afternoon after he struck a plea deal and admitted to sexually abusing a vulnerable adult.
All of that time was suspended except for at total of 32 months (and Paton already has credit for just over 500 days he has spent in pre-trial detention) so that he can attend and complete a sex offender treatment program while he is incarcerated.
Following his eventual release, Paton will be required to register as a sex offender and will likely spend decades on probation.
In recommending the largely suspended jail term to Judge Timothy Tomasi, who eventually approved the deal on Monday, Windsor County Deputy State’s Attorney Heidi Remick explained “Mr. Paton seems to appreciate the seriousness of his offense and has been cooperative with the sentencing process from day one.”
Although Paton has theoretically been facing the prospect of a sentence of up to life behind bars on the felony rape charge that had originally been filed against him, Remick said the amount of time Paton received Monday was still “a very significant sentence, particularly for one so young. There is a long-time supervision (component) hanging over his head.”
Speaking from the bench, Judge Tomasi noted that while the victim has since passed away “Obviously this had a big impact on the family of the victim.”
The judge said he was satisfied that Paton had “shown remorse” during interviews conducted with Corrections Department officials during the pre-sentencing process and, addressing Paton directly at the defense table, the judge said “I urge you to apply your best efforts to the programming and get what you can get out of this” before eventually returning to the community.
Hartford Police responded to the Valley Terrace assisted-living facility in the village of Wilder last April after staff members there alerted them to the alleged incident.
Valley Terrace’s Executive Director Angela Zizza had already obtained a written confession from Paton and the Hartford officers asked him to write another on one of their voluntary statement forms, which he did, ending it with “and then I had sex with (her), heard someone knock and pulled my pants up and realized what I just did,” according to documents filed with the court.
Zizza told police that around 6:30 p.m. that evening another caregiver at the facility needed help with a patient and went looking for Paton after she tried unsuccessfully to call him. That caregiver told investigators that she walked in on Paton and was immediately alarmed at what she saw and so she went directly to her supervisor and reported it, according to an affidavit filed with the court by Vermont State Police Detective Michael Dion who was called in to assist with the case.
Detective Dion said staff members at Valley Terrace were adamant that the resident who was allegedly assault “suffers from dementia and is incapable of having a coherent discussion with anyone.”
“Paton was asked why he did it and he said his mind went blank and he didn’t realize what he did until (the other caregiver) walked into the room,” the detective noted in his report.
“This is everyone’s worst nightmare when they send a loved relative to an assisted living facility because they just can’t live on their own anymore,” Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill said last year right after Paton’s arraignment, adding, “We trust caregivers to ensure that our loved ones will be treated with respect and dignity and, if the allegations are true, that did not happen in this case.”
Michael Paton Jr., 24, of East Thetford will have to register as a sex offender
Correction: Due to a math error, the original version of the story said Paton would serve nearly four years behind bars but, with credit for time he has already served in pre-trial detention, he will have served closer to two-years-and-eight-months if he completes sex offender treatment programming and is released as expected.
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