October 26, 2014

Williston man faces domestic violence charges

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By Kim Howard
Observer staff

A Williston father, recreation basketball coach and public access television show host pleaded innocent last week to charges of domestic violence allegedly spanning the last nine years.

Kaseen S. Smith, 31, of Williston was arrested on Feb. 20 on charges of aggravated domestic assault, aggravated sexual assault, and domestic assault. While Williston Police Detective Michael Lavoie was fingerprinting him, Smith also allegedly assaulted the officer in an attempt to get his gun; he was charged with aggravated assault of a police officer.

Smith pleaded innocent to all charges at his arraignment last week, and is being held without bail. Smith was previously charged with a domestic assault in Binghamton, N.Y., on May 6, 1998, according to a police affidavit.

Smith was a basketball coach with Williston Recreation this fall, according to Recreation Director Kevin Finnegan. Finnegan said the department found no flags on Smith in a Vermont criminal background check.

“(Smith) was very highly regarded among the coaches and the kids playing on his team,” Finnegan said. “So (the allegations) came as a shock to everybody.”

On his Web site, Smith says he has his own public access television show “KA Live.”

On Jan. 22, Smith’s girlfriend removed their two children from Williston Central School, and fled the Williston home she’d shared with Smith, his legal wife, and six other children, according to the police affidavit. (The Williston Observer does not name survivors of domestic violence.) Smith reported the girlfriend missing the same day, and later reported she had kidnapped the children; the woman is in hiding, according to police.

“The victim fears for her life and has taken measures to be safe,” the affidavit reads.

In a 16-page affidavit, police reported details of interviews with the girlfriend, as well as Smith’s legal wife, a caseworker from the Department of Children and Families, and two of the girlfriend’s former co-workers, among others.

Interviews with witnesses indicate Smith was extremely controlling, according to the police affidavit.

“Smith would attempt to control her every movement,” the police document reports a witness said. Each day at work, the girlfriend had three breaks. “The accused Kaseen Smith would require her to call him at the beginning of each break, and have her stay on the phone until the end of each break.”

The abuse, which allegedly had gone on over nine years, had become “much more violent and more frequent,” the girlfriend told police in a phone interview, according to the affidavit. “Acts such as not closing the cupboard cabinet correctly, or not answering the phone quick(ly) enough were some examples given of what disappointed the accused.”

“(She) described events that started with pushes and escalated to harder pushes to the head, and eventually became severe beatings to the head…and extreme emotional abuse,” the affidavit reads. She was hit with his hands, the affidavit continues, walking sticks, and small exercise weights.

The accused also allegedly forced her to stand in a corner where the children could see her; forced her to eat her own contact lenses; forced her to eat old food until she threw up; poured candle wax on her; put out cigars on her; and poured maple syrup on her nude body and forced her to go into the woods.

Last month, the girlfriend sought refuge through Women Helping Battered Women and later contacted the Department of Children and Families to report the abuse. The Department of Children and Families removed the six remaining children, ages 1 to 10 last week, Williston Police Chief Jim Dimmick said. A representative from the Department of Children and Families said she cannot comment on the case.

Dimmick, who conducted the police investigation, said police are still seeking witnesses.

“She’s been in Williston for a few years here; people may have seen things,” Dimmick said. “When people read the paper and see this woman was a victim of domestic violence, I’m hoping that people who’ve seen her with injuries … can hone in on time frames.”

Witnesses, such as the ones who’ve already come forward, are critical in home violence cases, Dimmick said, so the case is not one person’s word against another’s.

Dimmick said Williston police have “zero tolerance” for domestic violence.

“Domestic violence at any level is simply not to be tolerated,” he said by phone while on vacation earlier this week. “Any report of domestic violence can get quick attention. We know there are victims out there that need help. When a victim makes a choice to come forward, it’s an enormously difficult one. And they have to know that people are there and are going to stand with them and they’re not going to be alone.”

Dimmick also stressed that people in Williston need to know that home violence happens not only in this town, but in every town in Vermont.

“Be cognizant of it,” Dimmick said. “When you see something that bothers you, inquire if you’re comfortable, or report suspected abuse.”

Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office Deputy Peter Bevere said a bail hearing has not been set in Smith’s case.

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