Vermont man with history of sex offenses released from prison after pleading guilty

Bt JOHN LIPPMAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 03-01-2022 2:55 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — A Springfield, Vt., man who had been incarcerated for more than eight years for sex offenses against minors was set free from prison last week after pleading guilty to lewd and lascivious conduct with a 5-year-old girl that occurred years prior to his 2014 conviction.

George W. Simonds, 52, was released from the Northeast Correctional Complex in St. Johnsbury after his sentencing hearing and probation order in Windsor Superior Court on Thursday. He was credited with the 3½ years he served while being held in pre-trial detention without bail.

The plea agreement, reached last October, comes with a sentence of 30 months to 15 years, all suspended, and 32 conditions of probation, including no contact with the victim.

A prior conviction earned Simonds a sentence of five years to life, all suspended except five years.

“I regret the things I’ve done in the past, but that can’t reflect my future,” Simonds, said through a face mask near the end of his nearly 14-minute sentencing hearing conducted via video conference from prison. Judge John Treadwell accepted Simonds’ guilty plea.

The charge to which Simonds pleaded guilty had been amended in 2019. At first, police had charged him in 2018 with aggravated sexual assault of a victim under 13, according to court records, an offense that carries more severe penalties.

Simonds was freed after the hearing and is now under the supervision of the state’s Springfield Probation and Parole office, said a Vermont Department of Corrections spokesperson. The Vermont Sex Offender Registry lists his status as “not a high risk” and has him living in southern Vermont.

The victim, now in her 20s, gave an emotional statement during the hearing about how Simonds’ conduct affected her.

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“I was a child,” she said, her voice shaking. “I didn’t speak up for a long time about it but it does still cause me night terrors … It does still affect me, very much so, and it’s going to affect me for my lifetime.”

Her assailant’s release is “not fair,” she said, but “it’s what we have to do for sentencing.”

As a general practice, the Valley News doesn’t identify the victims of sex crimes.

Windsor County Deputy State’s Attorney Glenn Barnes, in outlining the plea agreement to the judge, stated that the victim “was violated and had something taken from her that should not have been taken from her, her innocence … in one of the worst possible ways.”

Simonds was already incarcerated on two sex offenses against juveniles and only months away from probationary release in 2018 when the victim, then 17, came forward to police with an account alleging Simonds had sexually molested her in 2005 or 2006, according to an affidavit filed by Springfield Police Detective Sgt. Patrick Call filed in support of the subsequent charge brought against Simonds.

The affidavit said that the victim reported experiencing “repressed memories” involving Simonds and had been having nightmares about it, which she said began after a school assignment to read The Color Purple, Alice Walker’s celebrated 1982 novel about a teenage girl in the early 20th century American South who is sexually and physically abused by her father and other men.

When questioned about the victim’s allegation at Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, where he was serving a five-year-to-life sentence after pleading guilty to sex offenses in 2014, Simonds denied the allegation, saying it “never happened.”

He suggested it might have been perpetrated by another man and he was being blamed “because he was a sex offender,” according to the affidavit.

Barnes, the prosecutor, told the court that the state weighed multiple factors in reaching the plea agreement, including that Simonds had completed the Vermont Treatment Program for Sexual Abusers (VTPSA) while incarcerated and he will be under stringent lifetime probation.

Simonds is “going to be supervised for the rest of his life,” Barnes explained. “He has a life sentence hanging over his head from the previous conviction … we believe this sentence takes into account punishment, takes into account rehabilitation, takes into account deterrence.”

Barnes acknowledged the victim’s “hope that (Simonds) would serve more time, and we understand that. And we certainly do not blame her for having that opinion,” he said. “But when the state ultimately weighed the risk of another trial and any additional benefit that could be gained under the circumstances, we believe that this was the appropriate sentence.”

In delivering his order, Treadwell said that “while the plea here might not be the type of sentence the court would impose” had the case gone to trial, the 3½ years Simonds has served in pre-trial detention was nonetheless “some period of punishment. There is clearly supervision that will apply to Mr. Simonds for the remainder of his life. That is absolutely necessary and appropriate.”

John Lippman can be reached at jlippman@vnews.com or 603-727-3219.

Correction: A previous version listed an incorrect author for Alice Walker’s novel “The Color Purple.”

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