Kolibas found guilty (4/1/10)

Defense plans to appeal verdict

April 1, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer correspondent

It didn’t take long on Monday for a jury to find Williston resident Robert Kolibas guilty of drugging and molesting a 13-year-old girl. Less than four hours after prosecutors and defense lawyers closed their arguments, the eight-man, four-woman jury reached its verdict.


    Courtesy photo by Glenn Russell
Williston resident Robert Kolibas, pictured above, was found guilty of drugging and molesting a 13-year-old girl.

Kolibas, 51, was found guilty on three felony counts: one count of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child and two counts of aggravated assault by giving drugs to a minor.

Upon hearing the jury’s decision, Kolibas shook his head and appeared distraught.

Family and friends of the victim, now 14, celebrated with hugs and tears of joy outside the courtroom at Vermont District Court in Burlington.

“(The victim), her family and her parents showed tremendous courage,” said family spokesperson Kristine Bickford, the executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center.

“They’re looking forward to going forward from here,” Bickford added.

Kolibas, a father of four, will continue to be held without bail until a sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled. He faces up to 25 years in prison. Margaret Jansch, one of Kolibas’ attorneys, said she plans to appeal the conviction.

“I’m disappointed in the jury’s verdicts,” Jansch said outside the courtroom.

Monday’s verdict brought an end to the four-day trial, coming 10 months after Kolibas drugged and molested the teenage girl during a sleepover at his Williston home on the night of May 29, 2009. He allegedly drugged his daughter on the same night as well. During the trial, jurors heard from the victim and her mother, as well as from Kolibas’ wife and daughter. Medical professionals and police officers also testified, as did Kolibas himself.

The victim testified last week that she and Kolibas’ daughter both drank smoothies prepared by Kolibas.

Kolibas, speaking in his own defense on Friday, said he put Valium and Ambien in a smoothie mix, but the drink was made only for his wife, Catherine. Kolibas said he wanted his wife to sleep after the couple had an argument, and claimed she accidentally poured the smoothies into the girls’ cups.

The victim said the drinks tasted funny and both girls fell asleep while watching a movie. The victim stated she awoke later to find Kolibas in the room where she slept. While drifting in out of consciousness, the girl said he groped and molested her, even kissing her on the cheek and saying he was sorry.

Kolibas told a different version. He said he entered the room to collect the drink cups and found the 13-year-old girl naked and touching herself. Kolibas said he panicked and tried to clothe the girl.

After the molestation, the victim called her mother to pick her up. They reported the incident to Williston police who, in turn, sent the girl to the hospital for a drug test. Her urine tested positive for sedatives.

Kolibas fled Vermont after police officers began their investigation. He was later apprehended in Maine after calling 911 and reporting he was suicidal. He was sent back to Vermont following the arrest in June 2009. He has remained in custody ever since.

During the trial, Kolibas and his defenders maintained his innocence, stating the girl’s testimony could not be trusted since she was under the influence of sedatives, calling the smoothie mix-up a one-time incident.

The prosecution countered by producing six girls, who testified to experiencing feelings of sleepiness and disorientation after drinking smoothies at the Kolibas home during sleepovers.

Before the incident last year, Kolibas had previous problems with the law. In 1996, he was convicted of delivering pornography to minors while living in Florida. The misdemeanor offenses required him to register for that state’s sex offender registry. The information was deemed inadmissible in court so as not to influence the jury on the Williston molestation.

Judge Michael Kupersmith said he wanted all information on the Florida convictions ready for the upcoming sentencing hearing. Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan didn’t say what sentence prosecutors would request, but he praised the jury’s decision.

“I think Mr. Kolibas betrayed the trust of every parent in the Williston community,” Donovan said. “I think because of that betrayal, he was held accountable today by a jury of his peers.”