By Michael Bielawski
Numerous Vermont law enforcement documents obtained by Vermont Daily Chronicle show a former Bellows Falls police officer and Homeland Security child safety program worker was investigated in 2015 for allegedly abusing a young teenager in 1995-96.
The investigation against William Hoyt was dropped by authorities due to statute of limitations law. Since then, the statute of limitations on the child sex abuse charge has been extended to 40 years – well within the timeframe of the alleged 1995 crime.
However, it’s not clear if the investigation will be reopened. The Vermont Attorney General’s Office told VDC by phone on Thursday morning that they are not sure if certain cases that previously were considered not covered by the statute of limitations are now open for prosecution since those statutes have been changed. They referred VDC to the Legislative Counsel’s Office, the lawyers for the Vermont Legislature.
Detective Lieutenant Dan Trudeau – now Major Trudeau, Commander of the Vermont State Police Criminal Division – wrote in a Supplemental Narrative report for State Police dated July 8, 2015, about the alleged incident.
“At this time I was aware that [the alleged victim] was accusing William Hoyt [the former Vermont police officer] of touching her in a sexual manner when she was a young girl,” the report states.
The Trudeau’s lengthy report describes the accusations in graphic detail. VDC chose not to publish photos of the report.
Hoyt was an officer with the Bellows Falls Police Department for 10 years until 2005. The alleged incident was almost 30 years ago.
“It would have been 1995-1996, when she was 13 or 14 years old. Hoyt would have been 26 or 27 years old in 1995-1996,” the report states.
The report notes why the case was never pursued for prosecution. In a letter from then Assistant Attorney General David Tartter to Trudeau of the Department of Public Safety, the state indicates that they will not be further investigating this alleged crime because it’s outside of the statute of limitations.
“I have concluded that neither of the incidents reported fall within the statute of limitations,” Tartter states.
The limitations at the time were either ten years or when the alleged victim became 24 years old. The alleged victim was therefore too old for a prosecution to occur.
The current law provides more leeway. Vermont statute under Title 13: Crimes And Criminal Procedure, Chapter 151: Limitation Of Prosecutions And Actions states the following.
“(c) Prosecutions for any of the following offenses shall be commenced within 40 years after the commission of the offense, and not after:
(1) lewd and lascivious conduct alleged to have been committed against a child under 18 years of age;”
40 years is long enough that this alleged incident in 1995 would now be considered open for prosecution. The law does not appear to specify if cases previously determined to be too old for prosecution can now be taken up again for prosecution.
The documents concerning the alleged underage victim and Hoyt offer more details including an explanation for why it took so long for her to speak out. The Supplemental Narrative indicates that initially she wouldn’t discuss the alleged incidents with anyone but when she heard that another teenage girl had told police about her sexual relationship with Hoyt, she decided to tell her mother, who then urged her to inform police.
At no point in the investigation into Hoyt is there a positive finding of sex abuse against him. Both Trudeau and Tartter cite the expiration of the statute of limitations as the reason for not proceeding with the investigation.
A career in national law enforcement
A report by VDC from June of this year detailed how Hoyt’s career continued and saw much advancement in the years after the alleged incident.
“Despite having a sex crimes investigation in his background, Homeland Security appointed him to assist with the Springfield, MA outreach program of Project Safe Child, “a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse,” the report states.
State authorities looking into Hoyt investigation
The handling of the Hoyt case is the subject of an administrative review by the Vermont Department of Public Safety. On June 21, Public Safety Commissioner Jennifer Morrison ordered an administrative review of Vermont State Police investigations into the Hoyt investigation, prompted by a complaint made by his ex-fiance to the Vermont State Police Advisory Commission, a civilian oversight and review board.
“Polly Neely provided historical information regarding alleged criminal conduct by her estranged fiancé William Hoyt, and her concerns [about] his behavior throughout the years, was being covered up by members of the Vermont State Police, and the cases that were investigated by the State Police were reportedly inadequately investigated,” draft minutes of the June 21 meeting say.
“Commissioner Morrison asked the Internal Affairs Unit to conduct an Administrative Review of the investigations the State Police have investigated pertaining to Ms. Neely’s complaints of William Hoyt’s criminal behavior,” the minutes say. No further information on the investigation appears on the VSPAC website.
The author is a reporter for the Vermont Daily Chronicle
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