Jacques, who drugged, raped, and strangled his niece,12 year-old Brooke Bennett, in 2008 has agreed to plead guilty to the charges and will spend the rest of his life in prison with no chance of parole.
The date for the hearing where Jacques will plead guilty has not been set yet.
David Ruhnke, one of the members of the defense team who represent Jacques, said he believed it was a just resolution.
Rest in peace, Brooke.
In 2008, Jacques lured his then 12 year-old niece, Brooke Bennett, to his house by telling her a boy she liked was there. Jacques drugged, raped, and strangled the 12 year-old and buried her body in a shallow grave a mile from his house.
Jacques manipulated information on a social media website and planted evidence in the woods of a neighboring town in an effort to mislead police. He also made up an elaborate story about ‘Breckenridge’, a fictitious ring of sex predators to throw suspicion off himself. He told that story to a friend who visited him in jail and the friend passed that information to authorities.
Judge William Sessions III indicates up to 5,000 people may be questioned to seat a 12 person jury for this high-profile trial. Jury selection is expected to take a month and the trial could last two months or more. The trial will take place at the U.S. District Court in Burlington, Vermont.
Jacques is a previously convicted sex offender.
A major point of contention has been whether or not federal prosecutors could tell jurors about an attempt by Jacques to shift blame for the killing from himself to a fake sex ring he called “Breckenridge.” For more information, see Brooke Bennett – A Major Victory!
In July, a three-judge panel from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City ruled the evidence could be introduced. Jacques’ lawyers immediately asked the full slate of appellate judges to reconsider a July ruling.
Last week, the appellate court turned down the reconsideration request and remanded the case to U.S. District Court in Burlington for trial.
The trial is scheduled to begin September 3, 2013.
In an amazingly fast decision, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled on the appeals in the Brooke Bennett case. The three-judge panel said prosecutors may use evidence Jacques tried to shift blame for the kidnapping and slaying of Bennett from himself to a make-believe international sex ring Jacques called “Breckenridge.”
Last year, U.S. District Judge William Sessions III ruled prosecutors had violated Michael Jacques rights when he contacted a friend, Michael Garcia, and begged him to help him clear his name. Garcia notified the government and met with Jacques while Jacques was in custody in 2008. There was no attorney present during the jailhouse discussion.
The evidence contains emails and letters authored by Jacques, posing as a member of “Breckenridge,” that describe macabre details about Bennett’s murder and a threat to have a another young girl killed if her sister did not cooperate with the sex ring’s orders.
In another blow to the defense, the appellate court partially overturned Judge Sessions ruling forbidding prosecutors from telling a jury about prior multiple sexual acts Jacques, as a teenager,committed with an underage relative referred to in court papers only as “J4.”
Jacques was never convicted of lewd and lascivious behavior with J4, but received a deferred sentence. He was never convicted of aberrant behavior involving two other girls.
The appellate court did however, rule Sessions has the authority to exclude or allow the J4 evidence if he sees fit.
Legal experts and law professors across the region opined that allowing the two damning pieces of evidence to be heard during the penalty phase of the trial is a huge blow to defense attorneys, David Ruhnke and Jean Barrett.
Cheryl Hanna, a Vermont Law School professor said of the rulings, “It suggests a person of innate evilness.”
Will these rulings speed up justice for young Brooke? I have sincere doubts – Sessions already deferred to Ruhnke’s schedule. I’m guessing the trial won’t begin this year, but that doesn’t preclude a happy dance for Brooke!
Michael Jacques was arrested for kidnapping, drugging, raping, and strangling his 12 year-old niece on June 25, 2008.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys have been haggling over several legal motions including whether evidence of past sexual abuse committed by Jacques can be introduced at trial. Also, prosecutors want evidence allowed which details the effort Jacques made from jail to make it appear a fictional ring of pedophiles killed Brooke.
Arguments on those motions were finally heard in May and lawyers are waiting for a ruling from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a ruling which isn’t expected for months.
U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions III originally scheduled the trial for September 2011. Yesterday, 4 years to the day of Jacques’ arrest, defense attorney David Ruhnke told Sessions he is likely to be engaged in other capital-case trials next spring. Sessions deferred to Ruhnke’s schedule and set the trial date for September 2013.
Sessions also said if it appears to be too difficult picking an impartial jury, he has not ruled out moving the trial, a defense motion Sessions denied last year.
The only positive for Brooke and her family is Jacques has been incarcerated for the past 4 years.
The young, fresh-faced 12 year-old disappeared in late June 2008. She didn’t deserve to die. Brooke Bennett didn’t deserve to be drugged, raped, or strangled. She didn’t deserve to be buried in a shallow grave just down the road from her uncle’s house. She doesn’t deserve to be waiting for justice, but she is and it appears will have to continue to do so.
Last June – yes, a year ago – Judge William Sessions III delayed proceedings to allow the federal government to appeal a pretrial motion that threw out evidence of prior alleged child molestation charges against Michael Jacques – for which he was never convicted – as well as evidence of emails and conversations between Jacques and an acquaintance in which Jacques gave instructions to the friend to plant false information to throw the suspension off himself.
The trial could have begun this past March, but the appeal, in all likelihood, made the summer of 2012 a more realistic time frame.
A three-judge appellate panel in New York City finally heard arguments this past Thursday. Assistant U.S. Attorney William Darrow indicated the panel asked a lot of questions about the prior allegations and about whether Jacques plotted to plant evidence.
Sadly, it could be months before the panel issues a ruling.
The one bright spot is Jacques remains housed at the Metropolitan Detention Center, a federal prison in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Prior to her tragic death in 2008, Brooke grew up in a perverse world, surrounded by some of the sleaziest scum of the earth. Her uncle Michael Jacques, a convicted child molester, was ultimately charged with the 12-year-old’s murder and currently resides in federal prison awaiting trail next year.
In a bizarre twist of fate, Raymond Gagon, Brooke’s former stepfather who was friendly with Jacques and often visited Jacques in Vermont, was initially suspect in Brooke’s murder.
A known source for trafficking child pornography, Gagnon admitted to the pornography charges and was ultimately convicted to 17 years by a federal court in Texas.
Gagnon also owned a home in Cullman, Alabama at the time that was immediately searched and found to have numerous pornography photos and computer files. The government’s sentencing memorandum in the Alabama case claims Gagnon had produced a pornographic video of his stepdaughter when she was 12 years old and he was living in Tallassee. This video would have been made only weeks before Brooke was murdered!
Judge C Lynwood Smith Jr sentenced Gagnon, 43, of San Antonio, Texas, for possessing a computer and related media containing images of child pornography. Gagnon pleaded guilty last year. Smith ordered the 8 year sentence to be served consecutively to a nearly 17-year prison sentence Gagnon is serving on a 2008 child pornography conviction in a federal court in Texas.
One piece of crap flushed, let’s finish off the bigger piece of crap!