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Victimized Again?

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Ellen O'Brien Ellen O'Brien
Amon Sylvester Amon Sylvester
Vt. Corrections Commissioner Rob Hofmann Vt. Corrections Commissioner Rob Hofmann

St. Albans, Vermont - March 31, 2008

"I'm very upset. I feel totally betrayed by the legal system," says Ellen O'Brien of St. Albans.

O'Brien feels betrayed because prison officials are preparing to furlough her ex-husband Amon Sylvester. By his own admission he raped her two years ago following their divorce, with their four kids in the house at the time.

"People need to be held responsible for their crimes. And there is no justice in the way that this is playing out," says O'Brien.

Sylvester was initially charged with aggravated sexual assault that carries a potential life sentence. But O'Brien did not want the kids to have to testify at trial. So she reluctantly went along with a plea deal for a less serious charge, with the stipulation he would complete sex offender treatment. Now she has learned prison officials are preparing to release him three months early on furlough-- without sex treatment.

"I feel like he has the rights to pick and choose when he is released. And I am very afraid of this man. He has not completed treatment and I'm done being the victim," says O'Brien.

Franklin County Prosecutor Jim Hughes showed us the documents indicating Sylvester would be required to complete sex offender treatment. Hughes says he too was surprised and disappointed by the corrections backtrack.

"The message from this case is not a good one. And I hope that we can work to not see it repeated," says Hughes.

Corrections Commissioner Rob Hofmann confirmed that Sylvester is a furlough candidate because he faces mandatory prison release in July, so they want to give him a chance to prove he can hold a job and stay out of trouble. Hofmann says prison counselors have also determined Sylvester will benefit more from domestic abuse counseling than sex offender treatment, but if he fails to comply with the domestic program he could be hauled back into prison for four more years.

"There's nothing I can say to mitigate the pain she feels. But what we're really keying in on is trying to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again," says Hofmann.

For now, Ellen O'Brien is left wondering how her story will affect other rape victims who may be reluctant to come forward and bring charges.

We contacted prison officials to offer Amon Sylvester a chance to respond. We are told he declined.

Also, it is Channel 3 News policy NOT to identify sex crime victims, but Ellen O'Brien insisted on revealing her identity. She says there is no shame in being a crime victim.

Brian Joyce - WCAX News

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