Associate Justice C.J. Moriarty sentenced registered sex offender Peter Duart, 42, to 10 years in state prison yesterday, following a trial in Dukes County Superior Court. The sentence followed Mr. Duart’s conviction earlier yesterday on a charge of rape and a lesser charge of indecent assault and battery.
Judge Moriarty decided the case in a bench trial. Mr. Duart, a Vineyard Haven resident waived his right to a jury trial.
On the assault and battery charge, Judge Moriarty sentenced Mr. Duart to three years of supervised probation, beginning after he serves his prison term. Conditions of the probation are strict. The judge required Mr. Duart to live in a residential facility approved by the court after his release; receive permission from the court to take a job or volunteer position; stay under home curfew between the hours of midnight and 6 am; and wear a location-tracking GPS device at all times.
Wearing a dark suit with a blue shirt and pale blue tie, Mr. Duart was unemotional as the judge read his verdicts and when the judge sentenced him to a long jail term.
Mr. Duart originally faced a charge of indecent assault and battery on a retarded person. (The statute uses the outdated term “retarded person.”) Judge Moriarty concluded that the Commonwealth had not met its burden of proof as to this charge.
But, the judge convicted Mr. Duart on the lesser charge of assault and battery. He said that while the Commonwealth did not meet its burden on the more serious charge, “I am much less sure [the victim] qualifies under the law as a mentally retarded person.”
But, he went on, “The Commonwealth has proven that [the victim] was or is a person with significantly sub-average mental facility.”
Cape and Islands assistant district attorney Jennifer Bright presented an expert medical witness during the trial, to establish the limited mental capacity of the victim.
The victim testified by video deposition in the trial. The defense presented no witnesses. Judge Moriarty said the verdicts rested heavily on the credibility of the victim’s testimony.
“This is not an easy case to decide,” Judge Moriarty said. “I have no trouble at all concluding [the victim] is a truthful person.” Judge Moriarty said the Commonwealth proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Duart used “constructive force,” against the victim. Constructive force is a legal term for using threats or intimidation to gain control or prevent resistance.
“Mr. Duart, when he called on the phone that night, identified himself as the manager,” Judge Moriarty said. The judge noted that Mr. Duart once held a management position at the Stop & Shop store in Edgartown, with managerial responsibility over the victim in the case.
In her sentence recommendation, Ms. Bright argued for an 18- to 20-year prison sentence. “It’s vulnerable people Mr. Duart is targeting,” Ms. Bright said. “He used his position as a manager to gain their trust.”
Attorney J. Drew Segadelli, who represented Mr. Duart, asked for a four- to five-year sentence. “I can’t question at this stage the fact-finding,” Mr. Segadelli said. “I’m not going to diminish it or excuse it, or justify it.”
Mr. Duart’s mother Barbara Duart and sister Rebecca Duart sat in court during the sentencing.
“A very, very tough day,” Barbara Duart told a Times reporter outside the courthouse after the sentencing. “My son is not the complete monster everyone is making him out to be.”
“I don’t believe the evidence amounted to proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” Mr. Segadelli told The Times. “But I believe the judge gave me an extremely fair trial, and I have to live with the verdict, for now.”
Mr. Segadelli said he will appeal the verdict.
The prosecutor, Ms. Bright, was not available for comment after the trial.
Mr. Duart faces an additional charge of rape in connection with another case involving a female. A trial date has not been set in that case.
History of offending
Mr. Duart has a history of sexual assaults. In 2004, he was sentenced to two years in state prison for the rape of an employee he supervised. Mr. Duart was also convicted of indecent assault and battery on a retarded person, and sentenced to three years of closely supervised probation, with stringent conditions attached in connection with that case.
At the time, Mr. Duart was an assistant football coach at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and assistant manager at the A&P in Edgartown.
At yesterday’s sentencing, probation officer Brendan Lucey testified that Mr. Duart complied with all of the terms of his probation, which ended in 2008.
Mr. Duart’s conviction this week stems from an arrest last March. State Police, acting on an arrest warrant issued at the request of Oak Bluffs police, arrested Mr. Duart at a restaurant in Dartmouth on March 17.
Mr. Duart left the Island the same day the arrest warrant was issued, leading police to believe he was aware he was the subject of an investigation. At the time of his arrest, Mr. Duart was carrying his passport and more than $5,000 in cash, according to Oak Bluffs police.
The case for which he was convicted yesterday began when a health care worker who assisted the victim with laundry, cleaning, and meals alerted police to the possibility of a crime. During an interview at the Oak Bluffs police department on March 3, the victim told police that Mr. Duart was once his boss at what was then the A & P grocery story in Edgartown, now the Stop and Shop.
The report describes an incident in February, when Mr. Duart went to the victim’s Oak Bluffs home and sexually assaulted him.
“The victim told me that he was ‘afraid of him,’” wrote detective Nick Curelli in the police report. “The victim also told me that he kept telling Duart to ‘quit it.’”
Already facing charges in connection with his earlier arrest, in May Mr. Duart was arraigned on an additional count of rape and an additional count of indecent assault and battery in Edgartown District Court, following an investigation by Oak Bluffs Police.
A female victim contacted police after she learned of Mr. Duart’s arrest on March 17.
She came forward, the police report said, “because she has to live with Duart’s actions for the rest of her life and wants him punished for what he did to her.”
The victim told police investigators she did not want anyone else to experience what she did because of Mr. Duart’s actions.
The Sex Offender Registry Board, which is responsible for keeping a database of sex offenders and providing information to the public, currently classifies Mr. Duart as a level two sex offender. A level two offender is defined as one for whom, “… the board determines that the risk of reoffense is moderate and the degree of dangerousness posed to the public is such that a public safety interest is served by public availability of registration information,” according to the Registry Board web site.