MONTPELIER, Vt.- A Vermont sex offender who spent an extra 1½ years in prison because he couldn’t find a state-approved place to live after his release is finally getting out.

 

Michael Potter was sentenced to 20 years after pleading guilty to attempted murder and lewd and lascivious conduct in a 1997 attack. Potter, who assaulted a 66-year-old woman in Quechee and slit her throat, registered as a sex offender and was to be released in December 2008.

But he failed to meet one of the conditions of probation: to identify a suitable place to live once he got out.

The Department of Corrections cited him for a probation violation after rejecting his proposals for residency, one of which was moving in with his mother, who lives with two young grandchildren.

On Wednesday, a judge in White River Junction approved a compromise under which the 34-year-old Quechee man agreed to submit to electronic monitoring and polygraph tests and the state agreed to withdraw the probation violation complaint.

Under the compromise, the Department of Corrections agreed to find a place for Potter to live and to release him by July 30.

“At significant expense, we’re keeping people beyond their minimum (sentences) because we don’t know how to transition them,” said Windsor County State’s Attorney Robert Sand. “The larger story is that in the wake of some high-profile cases where people on probation did some bad things, everyone in state government is more cautious about the release of high-profile offenders.”

Potter’s attorney, Kevin Griffin, calls it “insanity” that the state housed his client for 19 months more than it had to. While no one was crying over the extended incarceration, he says, taxpayers were paying for it.

“The public doesn’t care about Michael Potter (remaining incarcerated). Even the feedback I get in the community is that everyone simply points to his crime and says ‘Why should we care?’ I say that at a minimum, keeping him in for another 19 months cost them another $75,000. They could’ve built a trailer for the guy and housing never would’ve been a problem,” Griffin said Thursday.

David Peebles, community justice executive for the department, said the cost of an inappropriate placement can be high, too — in other ways.

“When we’re trying to balance public safety with individual rights, sometimes there’s a rub..”

Such placements have become thornier since a 2008 case in which a registered sex offender was accused in the slaying of a 12-year-old girl.