An 18-year-old convicted of raping and sexually assaulting four teens in the Lewiston house party case was given a chance Wednesday to avoid prison and sex offender registration.
He was placed on two years of interim probation and was allowed to remain eligible for youthful offender status. If the teen completes the terms of his probation, he would not have to register as a sex offender, his conviction would be sealed and he would spend no time in prison.
The teen was reportedly arrested last November on rape and sexual abuse allegations involving four teenage girls. He was accused of molesting one girl Nov. 22, 2017, when he was 16, and molesting a second girl Feb. 2, 2018, when he was 17 — both resulting in charges of first-degree sexual abuse.
On Aug. 2, 2018, he allegedly committed two acts of rape — one by forcible compulsion and a second by "some factor other than incapacity to consent" — though it's unclear whether those charges stem from one or two victims.
The assaults occurred at alcohol-fueled parties held at the Mountainview Drive home of the teen's mother, Tricia Vacanti, 47, and stepfather, Gary Sullo, 53.
Vacanti, Sullo and a family friend, Jessica Long, have since been charged with unlawfully dealing with a minor and endangering the welfare of a child.
The teen was charged in Lewiston Town Court with one count each of first-degree rape and third-degree rape, and two counts of sexual abuse.
The teen was allowed to plead guilty July 1 to two felony and two misdemeanor charges. The felonies include third-degree rape and attempted first-degree sexual abuse, both punishable by four years in prison. The misdemeanor counts are both second-degree sexual abuse, which carries up to one year in local jail.
Judge Sara Sheldon seemed to acknowledge unease at placing a "rich white kid" accused of four sexual assaults on probation, but noted young African-American and Native American sex offenders recently received interim probation sentences as well.
"This is not an unusual disposition," Sheldon said.
Even so, Sheldon said that when she learned about the teen's crimes in a probation report, she delayed his scheduled July 30 sentencing date because she felt one year of probation was insufficient.
“I went nuts,” Sheldon said. “This is appalling. This is terrible.”
Sheldon ultimately agreed to two years of probation, saying the terms for sex offenders are especially hard to follow and that completing probation in such cases is “rare.”
“It sucks the life out of a young person,” Sheldon said. “Your life will only be work, school, home. That’s it.”
“This is the greatest challenge you will ever face," she added.
Assistant District Attorney Holly Sloma called the probation sentence a "gift from these young women to the person who violated them."
"This defendant needs to grasp how his actions affected these young women," Sloma said.
Sloma added the victims "weren't supported by their peer group" when they came forward, but did so to stop him from raping or molesting anyone else.
"Their mindset was, in part, that nobody was victimized in the future," she said.
Defense attorney Barry Covert said the teen has "really transformed" since his arrest, saying the teen was undergoing counseling and performing community service. Covert added the teen is "well aware" of the difficulties of adhering to sex offender probation.
If he follows the rules of probation, he will return to court Aug. 16, 2021, for sentencing. If he violates the rules, he could face up to four years in prison on each of his two felony convictions.
After going through the lengthy list of probation rules and conditions, Sheldon once more reminded the teen of the challenges he faces.
"Rarely does anyone do interim probation for a year — and you've got two years," Sheldon said. "You've got a lot of work to prove to this court that you should not be a registered sex offender."