Just a simple country farmer

The latest on alleged sex criminal and Republican Senator Norm McAllister comes by way of this week’s Seven Days, and it ought to be an occasion for liberal schadenfreude over the fact that Republicans are still stuck with this tar baby. In the story, McAllister insists he will not resign and won’t agree to a plea deal. Republicans had been hoping he would change his tune once it became clear that his criminal case wouldn’t be resolved until sometime next year. But his tune, like Yanni’s, remains the same.

Thus, the 2016 legislative session is set to begin with a whole lot of embarrassing questions and an intense focus on the McAllister case. He might even show up for work, which would be the circus of the century. The Senate may try to expel him, which would lead to, presumably, public testimony from the likes of his former Montpelier roomies, Sen. Kevin Mullin and Rep. Tim Corcoran. It would be instructive to hear them explain, under oath, how they remained clueless about what was happening when McAllister had a teenaged “assistant” sharing his bedroom.

The schadenfreude is tempered, however, because the Seven Days article itself is kind of disturbing. It’s basically a one-sided account from McAllister’s point of view, quoting him extensively, painting him as a sympathetic figure, and providing little context or pushback.

The author is the usually reliable Mark Davis. The piece’s fatal flaw is that it hangs predominantly on an interview with McAllister and his son. They believe the Senator is completely innocent, that his accusers are lying and the prosecution has turned him into the real victim. It’s full of heart-rending details like:

McAllister recently sold a greenhouse he owned in town, and some farm equipment, to pay his attorneys, and he fears he may have to sell more land as the case continues. A friend concerned about McAllister’s mental well-being took his rifles away. So he couldn’t shoot a fox that killed most of the 100 chickens he kept for the egg money.

You can almost hear the violins playing.

Davis has McAllister “speaking… without anger,” which is interesting, because some of the stuff coming out of his mouth is awfully misogynistic.

“You’re screwed, because in this state, women are considered the Holy Grail,” McAllister told Seven Days. … “It’s great that nobody is above the law. But how does that work when you get accused of something you didn’t do? There’s a presumption that you must have because you’re a man.”

Yeah, well, there’s also the prosecution’s case, which was solid enough to prompt the arrest of a prominent citizen and earn him the immediate disdain of his legislative and political colleagues. Davis does mention said case here and there, but for the most part McAllister’s tale is unquestioned.

In the course of the story, Davis makes room for a brief homespun bio of the “fifth-generation Vermonter” and dairy farmer. He gives McAllister space to assert that he was only trying to help the women who are now accusing him of sexual assault.

Well, he did also have sex with them, over and over again, but insists there was no coercion.

It’s possible, but highly unlikely. False accusations of rape are rare. What’s much more common is a guilty man rationalizing his behavior. And on its face, even without looking at the evidence, there’s something squicky about a man initiating sex with women who are financially dependent on him. In that situation, the line between consent and coercion is almost nonexistent.

At one point, McAllister says landlords will be scared to rent to single women unless they “have witnesses.” I’d suggest a simpler solution: Don’t have sex with your tenants!

Also, don’t sleep with a vulnerable young woman you’re personally paying. There’s a word for that, even if it’s fully consensual.

Davis faced a challenge in writing the story because he had a newsworthy interview with McAllister, and his accusers “didn’t respond last week to phone messages seeking comment.” But even without their voices, the story could have been much better balanced. As it was published, it allows McAllister to plead his case with minimal rejoinder, and lay out some damaging myths about women and men and rape. It left a bad taste in my mouth.

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5 thoughts on “Just a simple country farmer

  1. NanuqFC

    Davis could have contacted any of the agencies that help women who’ve been sexually assaulted for reactions to McAllister’s comments. They’re so classically clueless and typical of those males who feel entitled to sex with any woman, as long as they feel they can get away with it.

    Then there’s the testimony on tape (which appears very late in Davis’s piece).

    Everyone — of any gender — who thinks economic or physical coercion for sex is wrong should be writing to challenge McAllister’s “I’m the victim here” tale of manufactured woe.

    Reply
  2. Brooke Paige

    While I cannot imagine Senator McAllister “beating the rap” – he still deserves his day-in-court. It is sad that the wheels of justice grind so slowly that the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” often becomes the veil for impropriety. Justice should be precise and prompt.

    Reply
  3. newzjunqie

    The actions he himself has admitted to are damning regardless of and separate from facts re the the alleged crime.

    “…police had two of the women place recorded phone calls to the senator. In the conversations, which are quoted in a sworn police affidavit prepared by Detective Sgt. Benjamin Katz of the Vermont State Police, McAllister made allusions to exchanging sex for rent payments he is due.

    He also apologizes to one of the women for sex acts that caused her physical and emotional pain — including one incident that was described in court papers as occurring to punish her for injuring one of McAllister’s farm workers with a tractor — and for forcing her to participate in unwelcome sexual conduct, Katz wrote.

    “I knew I was forcing you to do something you didn’t want to do,” McAllister told the woman, according to the affidavit.”

    This in and of itself is enough to, at the very least, call for a replacement – minus any admission of guilt – serving as sole purpose to facilitate the orderly unimpeded advance of the peoples’ business as Sen McCallister is clearly dysfunctional at this point. Could be with the understanding he could return to the statehouse following the legal process.

    Best case scenario is a plea deal that calls for no admission of guilt which I imagine is what he seems to think could happen, allowing a return to the statehouse and forcing members to use legal avenues to remove him which they cannot easily do if at all. If so, this version is far too rosy and altogether unrealistic. Once term is over I do not think he will be returned by voters.

    Reply

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