Trial begins for Lincoln County deputy accused of sexually assaulting girls

By Stephen Betts | Nov 13, 2017
Photo by: Andy Molloy Kennebec Journal Ken Hatch, left, sits with his attorney, Richard Elliott, during the first day of Hatch's trial in Kennebec County Superior Court.

Augusta — Lincoln County Sheriff's Deputy Kenneth Hatch III was a decorated officer by day, but at night was a different person, a man who preyed on girls for his own sexual gratification.

That was the contention of Assistant Attorney General John Risler during his opening statements Monday morning, Nov. 13, for Hatch's trial in Kennebec County Superior Court.

The jury trial is expected to last seven days.

Hatch is charged with 22 criminal counts that are alleged to have occurred from September 1999 until January 2014 in Lincoln County.

Hatch has pleaded not guilty to all the charges and is free on bail. He remains on unpaid administrative leave from the Sheriff's Office.

Hatch's defense attorney, Richard Elliott, said in his opening statements that the case resulted from a false claim by one young girl who bragged that Hatch was the father of her child. The girl made the boast to show that she had someone inside the Sheriff's Office, the defense attorney said.

Elliott said a paternity test proved that the girl's claim was false and Hatch was not the father of the child. The defense attorney further said Hatch could not be the father, because he never had sex with the girl.

The defense attorney repeatedly referred to the prosecution by the state as a "machine" and said it generated 22 charges in hopes that it could get even a few convictions. He said the charges by the state allege timeframes so vague that it is impossible for his client to provide alibis.

Elliott said his client does not have to testify, but that he will and denies all the accusations made by the state.

He said Hatch is a combat veteran who saw service in Kuwait City and is a veteran law enforcement officer.

Hatch was named Lincoln County Deputy of the Year in 2015. He had previously been a detective sergeant, but was demoted in 2013 for unspecified reasons other than an investigation by the Maine Attorney General's Office which resulted in a decision not to prosecute.

Elliott said the three girls listed as victims have a connection. He said one girl's brother is the boyfriend of another girl listed as a victim. He said the third girl's boyfriend had been investigated by Hatch for the boyfriend's possible role in a plot to bomb a police station.

Risler, in his opening statements, detailed what witnesses would say about the sexual assaults by Hatch against the three girls. He said the victims may not be perfect, but that this is why he picked these victims.

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

Risler said Hatch's darker side would come out soon after starting a relationship with the girls.

The sexual assaults occurred in his cruiser, his home, and once in a cubicle at the Sheriff's Office. One victim was 6 years old when the assaults began, the prosecutor said.

When that girl got older, he would provide her alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana in exchange for sex. Hatch used the marijuana as leverage to get sex, Risler said. One time, Hatch pulled over a motorist and confiscated two ounces of pot and gave that to the girl, according to the prosecutor.

Justice William Stokes is presiding over the trial. The 14 jurors and alternates are evenly divided between men and women.

Lincoln County Sheriff Todd Brackett came into the courtroom briefly before the defense attorney asked for a break and spoke to the sheriff, who then left the courtroom. Stokes had earlier said any potential witnesses would not be allowed in the courtroom until they had testified or been excused from testifying.

Hatch was indicted in August 2016 in Knox County, and the case was transferred to Kennebec County for trial. The case was investigated by Peter Lizanecz, a detective in the Office of the Maine Attorney General.

As of late Monday morning, the first of the alleged victims took the stand. The woman, now 30 years old, said Hatch would provide her liquor, gifts and paid for her to attend events. One gift that Hatch purchased for her was a dress for a school dance, the woman said.

A photo of the woman in the dress when she was a girl was shown to jurors.

The woman said the first incident of Hatch and her having sex was when she was a high school freshman in 2001 and Hatch had picked her up from her boyfriend's home. The girl said Hatch was in uniform and he removed her pants and underwear and had sex in the back seat of the cruiser.

The second time they had sex was at his home in Whitefield. The rest of Hatch's family was at a soccer game of one of his children.

The woman said she avoided going to Hatch's home again for a while until she was there as Hatch's family gathered for the death of a family member. She said she went down in the basement for a smoke when he came downstairs and had sex with her.

She said the next time she had contact with Hatch was when he came to her mother's house and questioned her about a boy she was dating who was suspected of being a gang member planning to blow up the police station in Hartford, Conn.

The woman said neither she nor her boyfriend was ever charged.

The woman said she feels he was trying to show her he could protect her in the legal world. She said she believed he made up the allegation so he could later show that he could protect her from being charged.

The court took a lunch break before the defense began questioning the woman.

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