Rockport man to serve 14 years for sexual abuse

By Juliette Laaka | Aug 07, 2014
Photo by: Juliette Laaka Erik Vultee sits with his attorney Steven Peterson Aug. 7 before the start of his sentencing hearing.

Rockland — Erik Vultee, the 44-year-old Rockport man convicted in June of 14 counts of sexual crimes against a child was sentenced to serve 14 years in prison Aug. 7 — two more years than was asked for by the state.

Vultee was convicted by a jury of 11 counts of unlawful sexual touching, one count of attempted gross sexual assault, one count of visual sexual aggression against a child and sexual misconduct with a child.

The victim's mother addressed the court and said she wanted a long sentence imposed that would give Vultee time to think about what he has done to her daughter. She said her daughter, now 13, suffers through sleepless nights.

The victim, who prepared a note for the victim witness advocate to read, said her whole life has been affected by the crimes perpetrated against her when she was between ages 8 and 10.

Vultee, standing to address Justice Jeffrey Hjelm, maintained his innocence. "Your honor, I did nothing wrong, I am not guilty of these crimes," he said.

Vultee's wife and mother each spoke, describing Vultee as a good person, and a hardworking provider for his family. Vultee wept as they spoke.

His wife said she found real connection and trust the day she met her husband, and said she will always love him and be there for him.

District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau asked Hjelm to impose a sentence of 22 years with all but 12 years suspended, and a probationary period of 18 years. Rushlau said the victim is a strong and courageous young person, and that she will rise above what she has endured. Despite her resilience, he said the crimes against her will continue to affect her.

Defense attorney Steven Peterson said his client is a good candidate for rehabilitation, and requested a 5- to 6-year prison sentence with all but between 9 months to three years suspended.

Hjelm, in explaining his reasoning of imposing a 22-year sentence with all but 14 years suspended, said although Vultee is described as reliable and responsible by his family, and has tremendous community support, the aggravated circumstances surrounding the abuse outweighs the mitigating factors.

Peterson asked for post-conviction bail so Vultee could retrieve his traps from the water, as there is no one else that can haul and store the gear. Hjelm denied the request.

Before the sentencing hearing, arguments for a motion for a new trial were heard. The defense said they were denied a fair trial because the victim's mother was outwardly expressing opinions of displeasure through gestures during Peterson's closing arguments. The incident caused Hjelm to send a note to the court marshal to alert the victim's mother to not outwardly display emotion.

Peterson contended the jurors were distracted during this and may have missed some of the fine points of his final argument.

Hjelm denied the motion, and said the incident did not warrant a new trial.

Peterson said after the hearing he will be appealing Vultee's conviction and sentence.

Courier Publications' reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at jlaaka@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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Juliette Laaka
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594-4401 ext. 118
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Juliette primarily covers the cops and courts beat for The Courier-Gazette.

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