Jury to return Monday to deliberate in trial of Lincoln County deputy accused of assaulting three girls

By Stephen Betts | Nov 17, 2017
Photo by: Andy Molloy, Kennebec Journal Kenneth Hatch, left, and his attorney Richard Elliott.

Augusta — A Kennebec County jury deliberated for about five hours Friday afternoon before being sent home for the weekend in the trial of a veteran Lincoln County deputy accused of sexually assaulting three young girls over many years.

The jury is scheduled to return Monday morning at 8:30 to resume deliberations.

Kenneth L. Hatch, 47, of Whitefield is charged with 22 felonies -- 11 counts of sexual abuse of a minor, three counts of unlawful sexual contact, and eight counts of aggravated furnishing of marijuana. The drug counts allege that he gave marijuana to two of his alleged victims in exchange for sex. In one of those instances, the state contends the marijuana came from evidence he had seized.

Closing arguments were completed Friday morning by the defense and the state.

Assistant Attorney General John Risler said this was a case about the abuse of trust. He asked the jury to hold Hatch accountable.

Defense attorney Richard Elliott said all three accusers knew each other and had an axe to grind against the deputy.

He also cited a number of inconsistencies in the testimony of the accusers compared to previous statements they gave investigators. His closing arguments lasted a little more than an hour.

"I can't keep up with the stories, they changed so much," Elliott said.

He said the prosecution's case was a house of cards and that if there were lies in some stories, then the rest of the case was faulty.

The inconsistencies that the defense attorney cited included testimony of one of the accusers who described an assault when she was 6 years old occurring in a log cabin where Hatch lived. The defense attorney pointed out, however, that Hatch was not yet living in the log cabin, but in an adjacent home.

Elliott said one accuser was angry at Hatch and his wife because they had told her they would do no more to help her raise her baby and he would not oversee supervised visits between her baby and the father.

He said another accuser was upset because Hatch had questioned her 13 years ago about her then-boyfriend's involvement in a possible attempt to bomb the Hartford, Conn., police station.

The prosecutor said the defense arguments as to why the girls would make up false claims did not hold water. He said inconsistencies are not unusual, because of the passage of time and the youth of the girls.

The defense attorney said the Hatches had many young people at their home -- both boys and girls -- and that Hatch would buy them gifts or take them hunting or fishing.

"This was a house that takes in strays, from troubled homes," Elliott said.

Hatch remains on unpaid leave from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office since he was charged in June 2016.

The county department had named him Deputy of the Year in 2015. He had previously been a detective sergeant with the Lincoln County agency but was demoted in 2013 for reasons not specified other than that an investigation by the Maine Attorney General’s Office had occurred which resulted in a decision not to prosecute.

Sheriff Todd Brackett came in to watch closing statements. He was not allowed to attend the trial because he was a potential witness, but was not called to testify.

The sex assaults often occurred in Hatch's police cruiser, at his home, a victim's home, and one time in a cubicle at the Sheriff's Office, witnesses said during the weeklong trial.

The earliest of Hatch’s alleged assaults was in September 1999.

The defense also attempted to discredit Hatch’s accusers by asking the deputy to testify about a medical condition that he said affects the shape of his penis, and pointing out that the alleged victims said they noticed nothing unusual. Hatch testified that he took a photo of his genitals on Wednesday to be shown to the jury as evidence.

Risler discounted that argument, telling jurors there was no corroborating evidence from doctors about this condition.

Justice William Stokes is presiding over the the trial that began Monday, Nov. 13.

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