EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 8, 2013

Angry victim: Court lenient on sexual attacker

'Not enough of a punishment,' she says of probation order

By Mike LaBella

---- — HAVERHILL — About 3 a.m. on May 25 of last year, Susan Lavoie was sound asleep in a bed in her friend’s apartment.

Suddenly, she was awoken by the feel of hands under the covers — hands that were touching and groping her. She was momentarily frozen by fear, but then began to fight back.

“I sat up and started screaming, ‘What are you doing,’ and ‘get out of here,’” she said of how she reacted to the man in her bed. “And he’s laughing at me.”

Lavoie, 53, said she grabbed a metal cane that was leaning against the bed — the cane she uses as an aid to walk because she suffers from terminal bone cancer.

“I started whacking him in the knees to try to get him out of the bed,” she said about 22-year-old Anthony Fowler, who was later charged in the incident. “But he still wouldn’t get out and he continued to laugh at me.”

Lavoie told Fowler she was going to call the police, and he ran out of the apartment, she said. Fowler was later arrested and charged with indecent assault and battery on a person over 14.

At a hearing Feb. 26, Fowler, of 132 River St., pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to 18 months probation.

“It’s not enough of a punishment,” Lavoie said. “What he did was a shock and trauma to my life. My marriage is on the rocks, I have nightmares, and some days I’m afraid to go out of my house. I live in constant fear and it’s tearing me apart.”

On Feb. 27, Fowler pleaded guilty to an unrelated charge of breaking and entering in the nighttime. That was in connection with an incident in January, in which he entered the home of an elderly woman in Bradford. He was sentenced to four months in jail.

“To think he’d go into the home of an elderly woman sickens me,” Lavoie said. “There is no sentence that is long enough for him in my opinion. And when he gets out, he will do it again.”

According to police, on May 25, 2012, Fowler entered a Temple Street apartment where Lavoie was spending the night and climbed into her bed and began fondling her. Lavoie said Fowler had been living in an upstairs room with his girlfriend and their two young children.

“It was the apartment of his girlfriend’s mother, but he was thrown out after they got into an argument,” Lavoie said about Fowler. “He knew it was me in the bed. He’s very sick person who has done this many times before.”

Fowler was charged with indecent assault and battery on a person over 14 and released on $1,000 cash bail. He was awaiting his trial on that charge when, on the morning of Jan. 31, he was arrested and charged with unarmed burglary. Police said he entered a house on South Webster Street about 2:30 a.m., frightening an elderly woman.

The elderly woman told police she was in her bedroom when she heard someone in the living area. When she went to investigate, she found a man, later identified as Fowler, trying to hide behind her refrigerator. When asked what he was doing, Fowler said he needed a place to stay for the night. There were no threats made or any physical contact during the confrontation, police said.

Lavoie said that when she learned of the incident involving the elderly woman, she wasn’t surprised to learn Fowler had been charged.

“I told police he would do it again,” Lavoie said.

Fowler was arraigned Jan. 31 in Haverhill District Court on unarmed burglary charge and ordered held without bail.

At his trial on Feb. 26 on the indecent assault and battery case involving Lavoie, Fowler pleaded guilty before Judge Stephen Abany. Assistant District Attorney Thomas Sholds recommended he serve 18 months in the house of correction, while Fowler’s attorney Erich Vogt requested a sentence of two years probation. The judge adopted the request of the defense and placed him on two years probation, according to Essex District Attorney spokeswoman Carrie Kimball-Monahan. Fowler was ordered to pay a $50 per month probation fee, remain drug and alcohol free and was relieved of having to register as a sex offender.

On Feb. 27, Fowler appeared in Haverhill District Court for a probable cause hearing on the charge of unarmed burglary, which was amended to breaking and entering in the nighttime. Kimball-Monahan said Fowler pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to four months committed in the House of Correction. Judge Patricia Dowling gave Fowler credit for 28 days served.

“Four months doesn’t erase the trauma,” Lavoie said. “I felt violated and I have no faith in the justice system anymore.

“Every day you see on TV how people like this are let off all the time,” Lavoie said. “But you don’t hear about how they hurt their victims. Why do they keep letting these people out? If they do it once, they’ll do it again.”