Judge rejected two-year deal after victim said, “he destroyed my life”
By Mike Donoghue, Correspondent
A former South Burlington school district security guard turned van driver has been sentenced to serve 3 years in prison after admitting to molesting a special needs student he transported and a second case in his hometown of Milton with a different child.
Jerry A. Normandin, 64, of Milton was placed on paid administrative leave as soon as South Burlington School officials became aware of the misconduct on July 23, 2021, then-Superintendent David Young said at the time.
Normandin pleaded guilty in Vermont Superior Court on Monday to two felony charges of lewd and lascivious conduct with children by engaging in sex acts: at South Burlington with a student under age 13 between September 2020 and July 2021 and at Milton with a boy under age 16 repeatedly between 2006 and 2011.
Judge Alison S. Arms agreed to impose concurrent 5-to-15-year prison terms with a specific requirement he spend three years behind bars. The remainder will be served on probation with strict conditions, including Normandin must register as a convicted sex offender wherever he lives for the rest of his life. Arms assessed Normandin $294 in court costs.
He also is required to participate in the Vermont Treatment Program for Sexual Abusers, Arms said.
Arms had rejected a similar plea deal earlier that would have netted Normandin two years in prison because she believed it was an insufficient penalty. He had pleaded guilty to the two lewd conduct charges on Dec. 12, 2022 and Arms ordered a Pre-Sentence Investigation report and a Psychosexual evaluation.
Arms eventually received the PSI report and the evaluation and she ruled during a June 2023 hearing that she would not accept the plea deal. She said among the reasons to reject the deal was the number of victims, the length of time the lewd conduct went on, the grooming of children and the vulnerability of the victims, court records note. He was allowed to withdraw his guilty pleas.
She outlined those concerns again when she noted a line given by one victim about Normandin: “He destroyed my life.”
Arms said at the time she did not make the decision lightly and understood the victims wanted closure, but the deal was too lenient based on the compelling statements of one victim.
Arms, who has been a state judge for about a dozen years, has been known to push back on some proposed plea deals that she considers failing to meet the ends of justice.
The judge said Monday the added year still does not fully address the real and lifelong harm Normandin has inflicted on the two children. She said while he will be required to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life, the survivors also have a life-long sentence inflicted by his actions. The judge noted one victim mentioned he has fought depression and suicidal thoughts.
One victim did speak in court and said he was glad Normandin was finally admitting his guilt. The victim said he has been going to church each week and determined he needed to forgive Normandin, but was disappointed he was not getting more time behind bars.
A lawyer for the second victim read a brief statement on behalf of the special needs student and a separate one from his mother.
Normandin apologized to both victims.
“I’m extremely sorry for what has happened,” he said. He also thanked Arms, veteran Deputy State’s Attorney Susan G. Hardin and defense lawyer Michael J. Straub for their hard work in getting the case resolved.
He said he is looking forward to getting on with his life after serving his prison sentence.
Arms reviewed with Normandin his legal rights before asking Hardin to outline the details of both cases in open court. Normandin confirmed Hardin’s recited details were true.
Two deputies from the Chittenden County Sheriff’s Department took him into custody as the hearing ended. Normandin said goodbye to two women who appeared to be relatives before heading to the Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans to begin his sentence.
As part of the plea deal, a more serious sexual assault charge was dropped.
Normandin had worked various jobs at the South Burlington school district since June 22, 2009 when he was hired as a security officer to monitor driving and parking safety at the city’s high school and middle school parking lot on Dorset Street, Young said. By July 2018, Normandin became a general paraeducator and served as a study hall monitor. Beginning in January 2021 Normandin was assigned as a driver for one of the school-owned vans, Young said. The district used its own vans instead of using taxi cabs for certain student transports.
Normandin initially pleaded not guilty two years ago to lewd and lascivious conduct with the South Burlington student that he provided van rides during the previous school year.
He also pleaded not guilty in court at that time to a charge of aggravated sexual assault for his conduct in 2005-2007 and a charge of sexual assault for acts in 2008-2011 for incidents reported in Milton, police said.
Then-Deputy State’s Attorney Dana DiSano filed the three felony charges when the two unrelated complaints dovetailed into one criminal case, officials said.
The Chittenden Unit for Special Investigations, a regional task force dedicated to handling sex and child abuse cases, said the two cases unfolded this way:
Milton Police received a late reported sexual assault complaint on July 8, 2021 and it was delegated to CUSI the following day. Essex Detective Michael Christolini, who was assigned to CUSI, began a series of interviews with the complaining victim and others.
While the Milton investigation was underway, South Burlington Police fielded a complaint on July 23, 2021 that a developmentally disabled child had sexual contact with a school bus driver, police said. Patrol Sgt. Ed Soychak and Officer Emily Graham began the investigation by interviewing the victim and his mother at their home.
Graham said she also spoke with Gary Marckres, then-director of operations for the school district, who was aware of the complaint against a bus driver, later identified as Normandin.
Graham and Soychak eventually submitted the case to CUSI, which assigned it to SBPD Detective Cpl. Dan Boyer on July 26, 2021.
Boyer and Christolini continued to investigate and they eventually approached Normandin in the parking lot at the Tuttle Middle School in July 2021. They moved to a nearby picnic table for a formal interview. Normandin denied any improper contact, but eventually was placed under arrest, Christolini said at the time.
Boyer and a second SBPD officer were among those in the courtroom to see the closure of the two-year-old case, which had been slowed due to COVID and changes in lawyers in the case.
Judge Arms did agree during Normandin’s arraignment to allow him to remain free on strict conditions pending a possible trial.
Many of the pre-trial release conditions match the terms of probation for Normandin. He is to have no contact, including in person, by phone, in writing or through a third party with the victims in the two cases or with any children under age 18. He also is not to harass or abuse the victims or their families. Arms also ordered Normandin to stay at least 300 feet away from the two victims, their homes, schools, places of employment and their vehicles.
He also must stay away from all children under age 18 unless approved by his probation officer, is not allowed to give children rides and is prohibited from volunteering or working for any business or organizations that serve children.
Normandin is required to provide the Sex Offender Registry updated information each year within 10 days of his birthday and within 3 days if he moves, enrolls in a school, changes employment, or has a child under age 18 move into his household.