April 14, 2015

Convicted sex offender pleads not guilty to DLS charge

See earlier post. And 4-15 UPDATE: Restraining order imposed on sex offender and Laws’ release reignites concern about state sex offender statutes, registry
4-14-15 Vermont:

ST. ALBANS, Vt. - He's been a free man for less than one week. But Monday, convicted rapist, Richard Laws, found himself back in front of a judge.

Laws was arrested over the weekend for driving with a suspended license. He claims it was a matter of safety.

Richard Laws, 49, is still adjusting to life on the outside. The convicted sex offender has spent the last 23 years locked up for the brutal rape of a Waitsfield woman. But his first few days of freedom have not gone smoothly.

Reporter Jennifer Costa: Do you feel that public safety officials are trying to find a reason to get you back in prison?

Laws: Oh, absolutely.

Saturday he was arrested for driving with a suspended license. Monday, he went before the judge.

Laws admits he was behind the wheel on Route 105, but claims it was an emergency. He tells WCAX he started driving only after his girlfriend became woozy from migraine medication and drove off the road. Laws says he informed the Department of Corrections of the situation, but was stopped by State Police in Sheldon minutes after hopping in the driver's seat.

"I felt that it was the lesser of two evils. Our safety was in jeopardy with her driving. It was wrong and I went in there and tried to admit it was wrong," said Laws.

Laws knew his license was suspended for a 1991 DUI, but thought it was a civil, not criminal suspension. He says he wanted to plead guilty in exchange for a suspended sentence or a fine. But when prosecutors mentioned the possibility of jail time, he entered an official plea of not guilty.

"If I can't live free out here, I'd rather be dead. I don't want to go back to prison," said Laws.

Costa: Would a DLS be a big deal for anyone else other than him?

Jim Hughes, Franklin County Prosecutor: No.

Hughes says DLS cases are typically punishable by a fine, but a judge can consider an offender's criminal record. Hughes is concerned about how quickly Laws reoffended.

"He's had a very long time to make sure that he conforms his conduct to the laws of the state of Vermont and very shortly after he's released, he's violating the laws," said Hughes.

Hughes did not want to make a deal without corrections weighing in on whether Laws needs to be re-incarcerated, supervised or fined.

"Is this the danger everyone anticipated out of me? I mean come on man," said Laws.

"If I'm Jack the Ripper and I'm supposedly the most dangerous man around, is me driving with a suspended license what's scaring you," said Laws.

Laws opted to represent himself saying he didn't want taxpayers shelling out cash for his public defender. But says he doesn't trust Corrections and claims the DOC mislead the public about his unwillingness to participate in sex offender treatment.

Costa: Are you going to stay out of trouble?

Laws: Yeah, I'm not going to harm anyone. I just want to live my life. I'm overwhelmed by this entire situation.

For now, Laws is free on the condition he doesn't drive. He's due back in court next month.

DLS can carry a prison sentence of two years. We checked with DOC. No one is currently serving jail time for driving with a suspended license. As for Laws' victim, Sue Russell, she continues to be an advocate for victims of sexual violence.

She has a 10 year restraining order prohibiting Laws from entering the Mad River Valley. ..Source.. by WCAX News

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