Domestic assault case trial months away

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

A trial for a Williston man accused of aggravated domestic assault is at least five months away, a Vermont District Court judge said last week.

Kaseen Smith, 31, of Williston, pled not guilty last month to charges of aggravated domestic assault, aggravated sexual assault, domestic assault and sexual assault. He also pled not guilty last Friday to a charge of attempting to disarm a law enforcement officer. A former Williston Recreation basketball coach and father of eight, Smith is being held without bail at Chittenden County Regional Correctional Facility.

Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Rosemary Gretkowski told Vermont District Court Judge Mark J. Keller last week there was a binder of paper evidence and a box of video and audio tape evidence available for the defense’s review.

Defense attorney Harley G. Brown III said though his client wanted to deal with the charges “the sooner the better,” the tentative April trial date was too soon.

“There’s just no way I’ll be ready for the case a month from now,” Brown said. The number of felony charges and the size of the case would require far more time to appropriately prepare a defense, he said.

“Mr. Smith, we have a conflict,” Keller told the defendant, who had been escorted into the courtroom in handcuffs and leg shackles. “People in your position want to have a speedy trial.”

Smith, who wore jeans and a red sweater with black, white and grey stripes over a t-shirt at his hearing, has been in jail since Feb. 23.

“The way it is right now, the people on that side, the prosecutors, their people have read all the documents,” Keller told him. “They put together the case.”

If the trial were only a month away, Keller told Smith, one deputy state’s attorney may be told to devote all of his or her time to that case, and would have resources to support those efforts.

“The advantage will be on their side,” Keller said.

In order to do the “bare minimum necessary,” Keller told Smith, his defense lawyer must read through all of the materials, talk to witnesses, record depositions and make a number of other preparations – all of which require time.

“And unfortunately Mr. Brown has to eat regularly, which he, as you notice, has done on a regular basis for a number of years,” Keller continued. “He’s also handling other cases. He can’t afford to devote 100 percent of his time to your case.”

“That’s the problem with having an assigned lawyer,” Keller said. “If you had $100,000, you could say to the lawyer ‘I want you to devote all of your time to my case and nobody else’s.’”

Realistically, the judge said, the case would not go to trial until August at the earliest.

Keller asked Smith if he understood the conundrum, to which Smith replied “yes.” Keller asked if it was OK to move more slowly for a better-prepared defense, to which Smith also replied “yes.”

Smith is scheduled to next appear in court for a status conference on April 27 at 10:30 a.m.