Crime and Justice

Ex-Vermont National Guard member gets probationary sentence in sexual assault case

More than 100 Vermont Army National Guard soldiers deploy to multiple locations in Africa at the Army Aviation Support Facility in South Burlington in 2021. A former member of the Vermont National Guard pleaded guilty to sexually and physically assaulting three women. File photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

A Vermont judge has accepted a plea deal for a former member of the Vermont National Guard accused of sexually and physically assaulting three women. The deal allowed Daniel Blodgett to walk out of the courtroom with no additional jail time to serve.  

The three victims in Blodgett’s crimes all made statements during his sentencing hearing Thursday in Franklin County Superior criminal court in St. Albans. Each said she was not satisfied with the plea deal and believed he would reoffend. 

“There are no words to describe the feeling after waking up exposed, sore, bleeding and wearing a different T-shirt than I remember having on prior and with a naked offender laying next to me,” one of the women told the judge.

“The first thought that popped into my head is, ‘I told him no,’” she said. “I remembered saying the word ‘no’ so many times that it no longer sounded like a word, it sounded more like a plea.” 

Blodgett, 35, who has lived in Franklin County, pleaded not guilty in early 2021 to multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault and aggravated domestic assault, according to court records. The offenses took place while he was off-duty from the guard.

He was held in jail awaiting trial for about a year before his eventual release on conditions that included electronic monitoring. 

The sentence, as agreed to by the prosecution and Blodgett's attorney, calls for Blodgett to serve three to 25 years in prison, all suspended and to be served on probation.

Blodgett, as part of the agreement, had earlier this year pleaded guilty to several charges, including some reduced or amended from what was originally filed.

In total, Blodgett pleaded guilty to five charges: two misdemeanor counts of prohibited conduct, two felony counts of first-degree aggravated domestic assault and a felony sexual assault charge.

Each of the women spoke in their statements about the pain, trauma and harm Blodgett has inflicted on them. All said they believed he was getting off easy with the plea deal and feared he would reoffend and hurt others. 

As a general practice, VTDigger does not name victims of sexual assault without their consent.

Superior Court Judge Martin Maley, after listening to the statements of the women, said it didn’t sound to him that they were in support of the plea deal.

Franklin County Deputy State’s Attorney Diane Wheeler told the judge that while the deal was not ideal, the victims had said they could support it to help bring closure — provided strict probation conditions were in place.

“All of them believe that Mr. Blodgett should be incarcerated for much longer,” Wheeler told the judge.

“The only way to do that is to have a trial,” Maley responded.  

“That’s right,” Wheeler said, “and that’s where they began to support the agreement for probation, so that is not going to be necessary for them.”

As a result of the plea deal, Wheeler said, Blodgett will be required to be on the sexual offender registry for life. His probation conditions include that he take part in sexual offender treatment. 

The judge said while the agreement is “not perfect,” he was willing to accept it.

“I will say the offenses here are extremely serious and obviously extremely damaging to the victims who, of course, are still suffering from the impacts of the offense committed by Mr. Blodgett,” Maley said.

The judge said that he understood it “wasn’t a particularly punitive” sentence and likely wouldn’t serve as a deterrent to others, and maybe not even Blodgett.

“If I was a gambling person, I would say that he will reoffend in some fashion,” the judge said of Blodgett. 

However, Maley said, he also understood the plea deal avoids a trial. And, the judge said, should Blodgett violate the terms of his probation, he would have up to 25 years in jail hanging over his head. 

“Will this be a rehabilitative sentence for Mr. Blodgett?’ the judge asked. “I hope so. I hope he’s successful because that means that the public will be protected.”

Rosie Chase, a public defender representing Blodgett, said her client is looking forward to putting his life back together and “hoping that with this sentence he can do that.” 

Blodgett also spoke briefly, stating that he was sorry to each of the three women. 

Seven Days reported in March 2021 on the cases and the allegations against Blodgett, then a sergeant with the Vermont National Guard. 

Seven Days detailed how one of Blodgett's victims reported she had been friends with Blodgett and that she let him stay at her home while he was dealing with financial troubles. One night, she told the paper, he repeatedly tried to get her to do cocaine and have sex with him, which she repeatedly refused, before he assaulted her. 

About a month after that report was published, the Guard reported that Blodgett was no longer with the service, adding that privacy rules prevented disclosure of any further specific information about how and when Blodgett left the Guard. 

A spokesperson for the Guard, Marcus Tracy, on Thursday declined to provide further details of Blodgett’s departure. 

The Seven Days report highlighted Blodgett’s extensive criminal record and allegations of sexual assault and violence, including eight misdemeanor convictions. The story also revealed that Blodgett had joined the Guard about 15 years earlier and that the Guard was largely unaware of Blodgett's criminal acts.

At a town hall event shortly after publication of that story, Adjutant Gen. Gregory Knight called the accusations against Blodgett “despicable.”

“The actions described have no place in the Vermont National Guard or in our military,” he said at that time. “Anybody who chooses to behave in such a way, they don’t deserve to be in uniform.”

VTDigger had published in 2018 a seven-part series chronicling the Guard’s past failures to crack down on sexual misconduct within its ranks.

In 2020, the Guard worked with lawmakers to create provost marshal positions, which helps bridge gaps between civilian law enforcement and the Guard “in terms of knowing when members choose to act contrary to military values and hold them accountable,” Tracy wrote in an email Thursday to VTDigger.

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