Jacques Case Changed Vermont's Sexual Abuse Laws

By Steph Machado

Published 05/20 2014 04:47PM

Updated 05/20 2014 06:22PM

BURLINGTON - As Michael Jacques was sentenced to life in prison, some people remembered how his murder case changed Vermont law.

"Crimes like this frequently cause changes to the law," said Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell outside federal court Tuesday.

Michael Jacques was a registered sex offender prior to 2008. Though he was under supervision by probation officers, he still managed to kidnap, rape and murder his 12-year-old niece Brooke Bennett.

"If offenders who have been convicted of serious crimes are going to be monitored in the community, they need to be supervised closely," said Tris Coffin, the U.S. Attorney for Vermont. "And the supervision, while well-intentioned here, didn't do the job with Michael Jacques."

"Clearly, this case fell through the cracks. They thought he was rehabilitated when really he was worse than ever," said Sorrell.

The goal of Act 1, a law passed in 2009, was to "increase child sexual abuse prevention efforts...enhance investigations and prosecutions...devise appropriate sentences...and improve supervision of sex offenders."

The law implemented Special Investigation Units in every Vermont county, created mandatory minimum sentences for sexual assault, and lightened caseloads of probation officers who supervise sex offenders.

Attorney General Bill Sorrell says the new law is working.

"I think we have improved since then," said Sorrell. "And this case has highlighted the fact that most sex crimes in this state involve the victim knowing the perpetrator."

The hope is to prevent sex crimes before they happen, to keep more Vermont children from becoming victims.

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