A convicted pedophile was re-arrested in central Vermont, just hours after his formal release from prison.
Alex Rich, 29, was released from prison this week and moved to Barre.
The police chief in Barre said this week that Rich maxed out his sentence for molesting a 14-year-old girl he met at a friend's house in 2008.
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That release prompted public safety alerts, including social media posts, press releases to media outlets, and the leafleting of the neighborhood where Rich moved to.
The reason for the unusual alert was because Rich refused sex offender therapy behind bars, and was considered a high risk to commit new crimes, Chief Tim Bombardier of the Barre Police Department said.
Shortly after his arrival in Barre, police put Rich back in handcuffs.
Prosecutors in Windsor County allege that in 2015, while Rich was still in prison in Springfield, he called his fiancé multiple times and urged her to kiss or have sexual contact with young girls she was babysitting, so he could hear about it.
The phone calls contained graphic requests and suggestions of ways the babysitter could interact with the children in sexually assaultive ways, according to investigators.
The Windsor County State’s Attorney said via speaker phone at a court hearing held in Washington County that even allegedly lewd suggestions made from afar by the former inmate would be crimes, since the children were reported to have heard some of the calls.
The phone conversations from the prison were recorded, and will be more closely investigated to determine what the children might have been exposed to, State’s Attorney David Cahill told Judge John Pacht.
Even though Friday’s hearing was held in Washington County, moving forward, the case will be addressed in Windsor County, where the alleged crimes took place.
Rich's appointed defense attorney for the initial hearing, Amanda Kitchen, entered a not guilty plea to new accusations that Rich compounded a felony and was an accessory before the fact.
Kitchen questioned why the criminal charges came two years after the alleged crimes, hinting they may have been a way to attempt to run Rich out of town.
“The state had two years to bring this charge,” Kitchen said. “The allegations date back to July 2015. They knew exactly where he was and they have waited until he was released from Springfield jail in order to bring this charge. I think the timing is highly suspicious.”
Barre's mayor thanked members of law enforcement from several agencies which he said worked cooperatively for addressing what he described as a public safety emergency.
“Perhaps he doesn't like the outcome, but I am liking it,” Lauzon said of the arrest of Alex Rich. “This is not an individual who belongs on the streets.”
Gordon Bock is the Vermont state director of CURE, Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants, which advocates for prison reform and prisoner rights.
While he noted he certainly does not excuse any form of crime, and is not familiar with the Rich case, Bock said former prisoners are often exposed to extra scrutiny that can challenge their successful reintegration into society.
“People get swept up in this hysteria,” Bock lamented, noting that, in general, strangers are very rarely the victims of sexual crimes.
Judge Pacht ordered Rich held on $50,000 bail.
If Rich posts it and is released, he’d have to observe a 24-hour curfew and abide by several other strict conditions, including that he not have contact with children, Pacht said.
Mayor Lauzon said a public safety response plan is already in place, should Rich post bail and attempt to return to living with a personal contact in Barre.