Jack Sawyer's Attorneys Seek 'Youthful Offender' Status For 18-Year-Old Client
Attorneys for Jack Sawyer, the Poultney man accused of plotting to attack his former high school in Fair Haven, have asked the court to grant Sawyer "youthful offender" status, something they say would better address the 18-year old’s case.
The most serious charges against Jack Sawyer — four felonies, which included three attempted murder charges — were dismissed following an April ruling by the Vermont Supreme Court that cited a lack of evidence.
Vermont Deputy Defender General Marshall Pahl, one of Sawyer's attorneys, said his client now faces two misdemeanor charges: criminal threatening and carrying a deadly weapon with the avowed purpose to commit serious injury or death.
Sawyer has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which carry a maximum penalty of three years in prison.
Pahl said his client is "very much an adolescent" and would be better served if he were granted youthful offender status.
“This is a system that is really meant to address kids who have done very dangerous, very risky things, but who are adolescents," Pahl said, "and who are going to benefit from treatment by people who have the training and the skills, really the mission of rehabilitating adolescents, rather than the Department of Corrections system which really isn’t focused on adolescent treatment and adolescent rehabilitation.”
According to Pahl, the juvenile court needs to hold a hearing within 35 days to determine if Sawyer qualifies for the status. To do so, Paul said the court will weigh concerns over public safety, as well as take into account whether there are adequate resources in the youthful offender system to provide Sawyer with the services he would need.
If Sawyer qualifies, Pahl said he would be tried in family court, which means the case would be closed to the public and any sentence would focus first on rehabilitation.
Rutland County State's Attorney Rose Kennedy, who has been prosecuting Sawyer, said the state opposes this. She said the risk to public safety is great in this case and will require open proceedings and long-term supervision – things Kennedy said are not contemplated under the newly expanded youthful offender statute.
Since April, Sawyer has been free on bail, receiving inpatient psychiatric treatment at the Brattleboro Retreat.