Smith sentenced on assault charges (12/17/09)

Dec. 17, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

After a full day of testimony detailing years of domestic abuse, a judge sentenced former Williston resident Kaseen Smith to 15 to 30 years in prison for his crimes.

The sentence follows a plea deal in which Smith pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated domestic assault against his former girlfriend. As part of the deal, prosecutors dropped two charges of sexual assault.

The abuse took place in 2007 in the Williston home Smith shared with his now-estranged wife, girlfriend and the eight children he had with the women. Both women testified in court, detailing abuse that occurred over a 10-year period.

Issuing the sentence on Dec. 9 at Vermont District Court in Burlington, Judge Michael Kupersmith called Smith a “very dangerous individual.”

“I consider him to be a major danger to the community and not just to the two women we heard today,” Kupersmith said.

Smith’s former girlfriend appeared relieved after the sentencing, telling the Observer, “It wasn’t enough, but at least it’s something.”

Earlier in the day, the woman told the court she was afraid Smith would try to kill her after being released from prison. The wife made similar statements during the hearing.

“I know he’ll look for me,” the girlfriend said. “It doesn’t matter if he’s 70 when he gets out.”

The Observer does not publish names of domestic abuse victims.

Smith was arrested in February 2007, when Williston police learned of the abuse of his girlfriend. The woman fled their home and found solace at a battered woman’s shelter in Burlington. Shelter staff alerted police.

During processing for the assault charges, Smith tried to take Williston Police Detective Mike Lavoie’s gun from his holster, resulting in a charge of attempting to disarm a police officer. Smith was found guilty of the disarming charge in December 2007 and sentenced to two to three years in prison.

Smith was also found guilty in a separate domestic assault incident in 1998 in Binghamton, N.Y. He was convicted of assault with intention to cause physical harm to his wife, and spent a few weeks in a Binghamton jail.


Assault in Williston

According to court documents, the charges on which Smith was sentenced last week stemmed from two separate incidents in which the man attacked his girlfriend. Smith allegedly threw a weightlifting weight at the woman and also beat her with a walking stick until it split in two.

The girlfriend testified to more abuse during the sentencing hearing last Wednesday. She said Smith more than once held a gun to her and controlled her movements within the home and at work. She said he poured hot wax in her left eye during one incident and routinely made her eat her own contact lenses because he considered her vision impairment a “weakness.” The girlfriend said he beat her frequently, even once allowing the kids to hit her. The woman said the abuse became more frequent in the later years she lived with Smith.

“You just took whatever happened and hoped it would end soon,” the girlfriend said, adding that she eventually worked up the courage to leave with her two children.

While no charges stemmed from alleged abuse of Smith’s wife, the woman testified to similar attacks. She told the court Smith hit her “way too many times to count.” She feared leaving her husband, she said, because she would have been unable to take her six children and believed Smith would attempt to kill her.

“I just don’t want my kids to grow up the way he raised them,” the wife said. “He was showing the children it’s OK to treat people like that.”

Smith and his lawyers asked the judge for a lighter sentence of four to 10 years in prison. Lawyer Bill Skiff questioned the authenticity of some of the abuse allegations and pointed out that neither woman sought medical attention after the alleged incidents.

“The sentence would allow (Smith) to complete the type of counseling which is appropriate here,” Skiff said.

Before his arrest in 2007, Smith was an aspiring rap musician under the moniker KA, with a local access talk show in Burlington. He was also a youth sports coach with a football program in Essex and a soccer program in Williston.

Smith spoke briefly at the sentencing hearing, claiming he had found peace with himself and God over the assaults.

“I’d like to say I’m sorry for all the physical and mental anguish I caused the two ladies and kids,” Smith said.

Smith is currently housed at the Chittenden County Correctional Center in South Burlington.