Beliveau pleads to felony, gets jail time in football case

Brandon Beliveau of Milton addresses the Preavy family during his change of plea hearing on Thursday, May 14. (Glenn Russell/Burlington Free Press photo)

The sentence is much lighter than the maximum for his original charge, felony attempted sexual assault, which can carry up to life in prison and heavy fines.

Beliveau, the team captain in 2011, was one of five former Yellowjackets implicated in a hazing ritual where players held down and inserted wooden objects into teammates’ rectums. His victim was identified as Jordan Preavy, who committed suicide a year after the assault at age 17.

The Chittenden Unit for Special Investigations brought the allegations to light last summer, initially charging Beliveau, Ryan Carlson, Colby Darling, Will Jenkins and Brian Lasell with misdemeanor simple assault for the incidents that occurred on school grounds and at a team party at Lasell’s residence in 2011 and 2012.

The code of silence was broken last spring after a student overheard Lasell and Darling’s victim being taunted on the school bus and told her parents, who reported to authorities.

The majority of the defendants accepted 18-month probation in exchange for guilty pleas, but Beliveau didn’t take the original deal, earning his upgraded felony. All defendants except Jenkins, who pleaded to disorderly conduct, can have the conviction expunged from their records if they abide the agreement.

Beliveau must also serve four consecutive weekends in prison starting Friday, June 5, the deal states. He must also participate in reparative board proceedings and in a community event if the Preavys ask. Though Jordan’s family may not fully agree with the deal, State’s Attorney TJ Donovan said it was his job to “be balanced … in the interest of justice.”

“There is no good resolution in this case, there really isn’t. We had a young man who died,” Donovan continued, later clarifying there wasn’t evidence to support Beliveau directly caused Jordan’s suicide. “There’s not punishment enough.”

During the nearly two-hour hearing with two five-minute recesses, Donovan distinguished Beliveau’s actions as more serious, describing Jordan as a transfer student who just wanted to play football and make friends and was instead assaulted by the team leader.

“His humiliation must have been immense,” Donovan said, “so we are holding Brandon Beliveau a little differently than the others.”

Unlike Jordan’s family, Beliveau is afforded closure, but Donovan hopes that instead of going through a protracted, public trial, the family can heal.

Victim Jordan Preavy’s father, Sean, directly addresses Beliveau in court. (Glenn Russell/Burlington Free Press photo)

“That is something the state has a sincere desire to see happen,” he said. “At the end of the day, this is about a family.”

Beliveau’s attorney, Tim Fair, said his client is remorseful and lost his job over the sex charge. He said Beliveau – who is ironically a criminal justice major – has a life ahead of him.

“[This deal] will be a deterrent for any other high school kid who thinks this is funny or fun,” Fair said. “The seriousness of what occurred has been made perfectly clear.”

Jordan’s mother, Tracy Stopford, said the family relived Jordan’s suicide after learning he was a victim in the case, and the proceedings have left them drained. In a rare show of tears, Stopford told the judge she and Jordan’s father, Sean, have both sold their homes and are leaving the country.

Sean Preavy directly addressed Beliveau, saying he doesn’t believe Beliveau is remorseful or takes responsibility.

“My son, Jordan Daly Preavy, at 17 years old, was 10 times the man you will ever be,” he said. “You, sir, in my opinion, are a coward and a failure as a human being, and I can’t wait to walk out of this courtroom today and have to never deal with you again.”

Donovan said Jordan fought against his attackers, which speaks to his character.

“He’d be incredibly proud of his family standing here in the open court, fighting for Jordan and his memory but for so many other victims who are suffering in silence,” Donovan said.

Judge Samuel Hoar openly empathized with the Preavys, saying his own sister committed suicide when he was 21 years old. Forty years later, his mother still questions why, he said.

“It’s a lifelong process, but I hope your grief will continue to inspire you, as it has already, to do wonderful things in Jordan’s memory so his life, though foreshortened, will not have been a loss,” Hoar said.

The judge referred to the Preavy family’s advocacy for Jordan’s Bill, legislation introduced by Milton Rep. Ron Hubert that seeks to remove the “reasonable cause” standard before reporting child abuse. Donovan said the law’s gray area prevented him from charging Milton administrators with failure to report.

The judge challenged Beliveau to atone for his wrongdoing and make Jordan proud so the Preavys could someday forgive him.

“Your community, your teammates looked to you for leadership that you lacked, and you failed, and as a result of that failure, an awful thing happened to a wonderful young man,” Hoar said, later adding, “Please seize this opportunity.”

Addressing the Preavys, Beliveau admitted his fault and apologized: “If there’s anything I can do, which I’m sure there’s not, I’d like to do that,” he said. “I’m sorry, and I take full responsibility.”

Outside the courtoom, Donovan told reporters he believes Beliveau was sincere.

“I take him at his word,” he said. “I hope Mr. Beliveau goes forward and does well in life. We want him to be successful. This must be hard on him as well.”

After hugging and thanking the investigators, Jordan’s family left the courthouse without offering further comment. Both Donovan and the judge commended the Preavys for their strength. Jordan’s Bill, now a part of child abuse prevention bill S.9, is expected to pass before the legislature adjourns this weekend.

The school-ordered internal investigation into compliance with reporting procedures is not yet complete.

Donovan hopes the case and the resulting legislation can help other victims.

“This was a culture of abuse that occurred; I think it’s being corrected,” he said. “The message is very clear to any young person who’s being bullied, who’s being teased … It’s important to speak out.”

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