Kenneth L. Hatch III, 46, of Whitefield, appeared in Knox County court Aug. 23 and pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of sexual abuse of minors, eight counts of aggravated furnishing Schedule Z drugs, and three counts of unlawful sexual contact.

According to a press release from Lincoln County Sheriff Todd Brackett, Tuesday, Aug. 9, a grand jury convened in Knox County indicted Hatch on counts of sexual abuse of minors, Class C, counts of aggravated furnishing of Schedule Z drugs, namely marijuana, Class C, and counts of unlawful sexual contact, Class C. The indictment was the result of an investigation  by the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

Immediately following the indictment and pending the outcome of an internal investigation by the sheriff, Hatch’s employment status with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office was changed to indefinite leave without pay. Hatch had been on administrative leave since June 16.

An internal investigation to determine what Sheriff’s Office policy violations may have been committed is pending following the conclusion of the AG’s criminal investigation.

“The fact of the indictment, regardless of the ultimate determination of guilt or innocence, means that Mr. Hatch cannot work as a deputy sheriff. As to the substance, the allegations are plainly very serious and I am treating them that way," Brackett said. "As soon as the AG’s Office has finished its investigation, which I understand is still ongoing, I will launch my own inquiry by engaging an outside law enforcement agency to investigate the matter independently on behalf of the Sheriff’s Office. Public trust is crucial to our success as public safety provider, and I want to make sure this matter is handled as transparently as possible.” Brackett said.

“It will take some time for this matter to be resolved by the court. However, I want to be very clear that should the internal investigation provide information that substantiates criminal conduct or serious violations of department policies, or if a conviction is handed down, I will deal with the matter swiftly and appropriately. These allegations, if true, fly in the face of everything myself, my staff and the Sheriff’s Office stand for.” Brackett said.