Saturday, December 12, 2009

Vermont man with girlfriend, wife sentenced to 15-30 years for assaults

A man with a girlfriend and a wife living with him was sentenced to 15 to 30 years in a Vermont prison Wednesday, December 9 for physically, emotionally, and sexually abusing them at their Williston, VT home. Judge Michael Kupersmith sentenced Kaseem Smith in Vermont District Court in Burlington after a plea aggreement in which sex assault charges were dropped in exchange for guilty pleas to two aggravated domestic assault charges.

The charges which lead to the assault charges were two instances in 2007 where Smith hit his "girlfriend" with a walking stick until it broke, and hitting her with hand weights. After that incident, the "girlfriend" fled the house, assisted by her employer and the women's advocacy group Women Helping Battered Women.

Other instances against both women included forcing or coercing the women to either fight or have sex with each other while he watched, having the girlfriend eat her contacts as punishment for disobeying him, and putting a gun in his wife's mouth and telling her not to move because the safety wasn't on.

"You just took whatever happened and hoped it would end soon," said the "girlfriend." The wife said that "You had to do everything Kaseen said to do, otherwise, you were looking for a beating."

Smith, 34, once hosted a show called "KA Live," which aired weekly on Channel 15, a community access channel in Burlington. He is also a former coach for youth football in Essex and youth recreational basketball in Williston.

Smith's lawyers argued that neither woman ever sought medical help as a result of injuries allegedly inflicted by Smith. The two women conceded under questioning that Smith never abused any of their children and was well liked by the kids he coached.

The lawyers also questioned the veracity of some of what the women said Smith did. "A lot of the allegations are easily made, but difficult to disprove," Bill Skiff, one of Smith's lawyers, told Kupersmith.

Smith, in a brief statement just before Kupersmith sentenced him, apologized to his estranged wife and the ex-girlfriend for his conduct. "I'd like to say I'm sorry for the mental and physical anguish I caused the ladies and the kids," he said. "But I'm a peaceful guy now."

Chittenden County Deputy State's Attorney Rosemary Gretkowski said that "Anything less than this sentence would demean the severity and the atrocity of this abuse."

To his credit, Judge Kupersmith said that "Mr. Smith is a chronic batterer and abuser. I consider him to be a major danger to the community... What I have heard is credible evidence of years and years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse perpetrated on two women."

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