March 12, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

A woman accused of allowing a man to sexually abuse her young daughter will likely face trial in June. The state charges that the Williston mother knew Mark Hulett, a former Williston resident, assaulted her daughter between 2001 and 2005. She pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated sexual assault in January.

In a status conference on Friday at Vermont District Court in Burlington, William Norful, the mother’s court-appointed lawyer, said he was still in the discovery stages of the case. With Judge Geoffrey Crawford presiding, Norful said he was looking to hire a special investigator, as well as an expert witness, to test the cognitive abilities of his client. Norful said they might help to throw out incriminating statements the mother made to police. Norful said he plans to file a motion to strike the statements from the case.

The Observer is not revealing the 33-year-old mother’s name to protect  her daughter’s identity.

If convicted, the mother faces a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, far more than Hulett’s sentence. Vermont law states that accomplices in sexual assault crimes are to be held as accountable as perpetrators. The legislation has been enacted since Hulett’s sentencing three years ago.

Hulett, who abused the girl between the time she was 6 and 10, was sentenced to three years in prison in January 2006 after pleading guilty to charges of aggravated sexual assault. His sentence has since expired, but he remains in custody in Springfield as he looks for a place to live.

Hulett’s case originally made national headlines when he was sentenced to only six months in prison so he could obtain counseling thought to be unavailable in prison. A judge resentenced him after it was clear Hulett would receive counseling in jail.

Another status conference for the mother is scheduled for May 1 at 2 p.m. in Burlington.