Unclear if molestation suspect was required to register in Vt.
July 2, 2009
By Tim Simard
Chittenden County prosecutors are looking into the past crimes of a Williston man accused of molesting a local 13-year-old girl, trying to determine if he needed to register as a sex offender in Vermont.
Robert Kolibas stands next his public defender during his arraignment in Vermont District Court on June 22. Kolibas is accused of molesting a 13-year-old girl at his home in Williston.
Robert Kolibas, a registered sex offender in Florida, pleaded not guilty last week to felony charges of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child, second degree unlawful restraint and giving a drug to a minor.
Kolibas allegedly sedated then molested the girl, a friend of his daughter, during a sleepover at his home. He is currently being held without bail. A bail hearing was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, after press deadline.
Investigators are looking at Kolibas’ Florida crimes and trying to determine whether he would have qualified for Vermont’s sex offender registry. Furthermore, a new state law set to take effect this week will expand the number of violations that require a sex offender to register in Vermont.
“We’re still in the process of talking to the (district attorneys) in Florida,” Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan said.
Regardless of the outcome, prosecutors and sex offender registry staff believe Kolibas erred by not telling authorities about his Florida offenses.
“Absolutely he should have informed us,” said Sheri Englert, Vermont’s sex offender registry program coordinator.
Donovan added, “He was required to self report and here, in this case, he did not. In a perfect world, we would have received something from the state in which he came from.”
Donovan wanted to learn more about Kolibas’ past offenses before determining if he would file charges against the man for failing to notify the state about his status as a Florida sex offender.
In 1995, Kolibas was charged with two felony counts of providing obscene material to a minor and two misdemeanor counts of attempting to provide obscene material to a minor. The charges were filed in Brevard County, Fla., where Kolibas was living at the time.
According to an affidavit from the Palm Bay (Fla.) Police Department, Kolibas admitted to preparing and delivering obscene material to two juvenile girls on four separate occasions. Materials included sex stories and “numerous photographs,” according to the affidavit. The materials were left either in the girls’ mailboxes or driveways, the affidavit states.
On Jan. 29, 1996, Kolibas pleaded no contest to the four charges, with his “adjudication of guilt withheld,” according to Brevard County court documents.
Donovan said Florida’s sentence is not one that is handed down in Vermont. The closest correlation to having adjudication of guilt withheld would be a deferred sentence, Donovan explained.
“If you get a deferred sentence, I can’t ethically say you were convicted,” Donovan said.
In other words, Kolibas may have been found guilty of the charges, but he wasn’t officially convicted, Donovan explained.
According to the court records, Kolibas was sentenced to five years probation on the charges and ordered to undergo sex offender treatment. He was also required to register as sex offender in Florida.
Vermont sex offender registry
In the years after the Florida offenses, Kolibas moved to New Jersey and then to Vermont. He did not alert either state that he was registered as a sex offender in Florida, said Englert.
If he had notified local authorities, Kolibas may not have needed to register as a sex offender in Vermont, Donovan said. The charges in Florida translate to Vermont charges of disseminating indecent material to a minor, he said. Those offenses were not registerable offenses, Donovan explained.
With Vermont’s new sex offender registry law that went into effect on July 1, Englert believes Kolibas will now need to register in Vermont due to the Florida charges. The new law, which will expand the current sex offender registry, came about as a result of last year’s kidnapping and slaying of 12-year-old Brooke Bennett of Randolph.
The law, known as Act 58, will expand and update Vermont’s online registry. Currently, 400 high-risk individuals are listed with pictures and address information on the site. By Oct. 1, Englert said, that list will expand to 2,400 residents with any sort of sex crime conviction. Kolibas will need to be on the registry, Englert believes.
Still, it is up to the offender to report his or her past crimes to authorities, Englert said. She said safety nets exist that should help Vermont authorities notice former offenders. The information should reveal itself when a person goes to get a driver’s license or other form of identification.
“There are a lot of different catches out there,” Englert said.
Despite those safeguards, the system is not foolproof, as the experience with Kolibas proved. Kolibas’ prior charges were not discovered until after the alleged crimes on May 30. Donovan believes it might have something to do with the way Kolibas’ adjudication of guilt was withheld. He said there needs to be improved communication between states and a more streamlined way of identifying sex offenders across the country — perhaps even a national registry.
“There are a lot of loopholes in the system,” Donovan said. “This is really a national issue, if you will.”