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Vt. man arrested for lewd conduct hours after leaving court - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. man arrested for lewd conduct hours after leaving court

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Michael Norton Michael Norton
BURLINGTON, Vt. -

A Winooski man says schizophrenia is leading him to repeatedly break the law, but a mental health evaluation does not appear to be coming soon and a judge says he cannot lock him up.

Michael Norton, 48, pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from public masturbation Thursday morning, just a day after prosecutors filed similar charges in a separate case.

By Thursday afternoon, police picked him up once again for returning to the scene of the alleged crime.

Prosecutors once again charged him with lewd and lascivious conduct, after he allegedly began masturbating on Church Street.

"I was led by circumstances beyond my control due to schizophrenia disorder and that's all I have to say," said Norton.

"Your honor, today we'll enter a plea of not guilty," said Norton's public defender.

Norton has several similar or related charges pending, including one from the previous day. The prosecution and the defense asked the court to re-schedule a mental evaluation now slated for August.

"Hopefully within the next week, two weeks at the most," said Norton's public defender.

Judge James Crucitti made no promises, but said Vermont law compelled him to release Norton because he never fails to make a court date. As previous judges have, Judge Crucitti ordered Norton to stay off Church Street and away from children.

"If you violate this again, you will be held in jail," said Judge Crucitti.

By the Thursday afternoon, Norton returned to Church Street and to jail.

Dr. Steve Runyan directs crisis services for the HowardCenter, he cannot discuss specific cases but spoke to us generally about the intersection between the law and mental health.

"If we could more align the resources that are available with the needs in the community I think that problems like this would diminish," said Dr. Steven Runyan from the HowardCenter.

It's unclear when Norton will face new charges for violating his release. The Burlington Police Chief expressed frustration that Norton still has not been evaluated.

In previous interviews on the subject the chief has told us that mental health related cases have spiked in recent years and are now only out-numbered by vandalism cases.


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