Judge rejects dance instructor plea deal

Ernest "E-knock" Phillips/File

BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) A Washington County judge has rejected a plea deal in a case involving a former dance instructor accused of having sex with his teenage students.

Citing media coverage of his guilty plea from WCAX News and other news outlets, Ernest "E-Knock" Phillips earlier this month asked Judge Howard VanBenthuysen to accept a plea agreement he struck with Washington County State's Attorney Scott Williams that would offer him a sentence of three years on probation.

After putting the deal on hold earlier this month, two of Phillips' alleged victims told the court that Williams had not consulted with them about the deal, and they wanted Phillips to face a harsher sentence. Williams has been on out on medical leave.

The Times Argus reports that in a decision Monday, Judge VanBenthuysen said Williams erred in drawing up the plea deal because the charges Phillips was admitting to only became law this spring, and did not exist when he committed the alleged crimes.

Phillips faces a maximum sentence of 90 years in prison.