Southwest Harbor man arrested on sex abuse charge

Posted Feb. 27, 2009, at 2:03 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 10:46 a.m.

SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Maine — A local man who was charged with manslaughter 12 years ago after he struck and killed a pedestrian on Route 102 is in trouble with the law again.

Frank Rees, 83, was arrested by local police earlier this week on charges of sexual abuse of a minor and tampering with a witness, local Police Chief David Chapais said Friday.

Rees, who allegedly was drunk in October 1997 when he fatally hit William Porter of Southwest Harbor with his Cadillac, suffers from dementia and was found to be incompetent to stand trial in that case. But he was not committed to a mental institution or to a supervised living situation because, state health officials deter-mined, his dementia does not qualify as mental illness and he is able to take care of his personal affairs.

“We’re very frustrated, of course,” Porter’s brother, Jeff Porter of Tremont, said in August 2002, when Rees was allowed to walk out of jail a free man. “I just hope he doesn’t hurt anyone else. He can’t continue to get away with this stuff.”

Chapais said the incident involving the alleged abuse occurred earlier this month. The parents of a 15-year-old girl came to talk to local police about the incident last week, he said, and an arrest warrant subsequently was issued for Rees’ arrest.

Rees also is accused of making some sort of offer to the family in exchange for not filing a complaint with the Police Department, according to Chapais.

“We believe it was money,” the chief said of the alleged offer.

Tampering with a witness is a Class B crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000. The charge of sexual abuse of a minor, because of the age of the victim in this case, is a Class D misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a fine of $2,000.

Chapais said police are trying to determine whether the alleged assault was an isolated incident or part of a larger pattern of behavior on Rees’ part. Anyone with possible information about alleged recent criminal behavior by Rees is asked to contact the Police Department at 244-7911, Chapais said.

Rees was arrested Feb. 22 and is believed to have made bail at Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth the next day, Chapais said. According to a corrections officer at the jail, Rees has been released on $2,000 cash bail.

In the 1997 incident, Rees allegedly had a blood alcohol content of 0.20 percent when he struck and killed William Porter while driving across the Route 102 bridge over Bass Harbor Marsh, which separates the towns of Tremont and Southwest Harbor. In 1999, Rees was charged with assault for an incident in Sullivan in which he allegedly offered a woman $2,000 for sex, grabbed her arm and kissed her neck, prosecutors have said.

The charges stemming from both incidents later were dismissed because of the incompetency finding.

However, Rees was convicted of assault stemming from a February 2001 incident in which he reportedly exposed himself to a woman in an elevator. Attempts Friday to contact prosecutors in the Hancock County District Attorney’s Office to find out why he was convicted of this later incident were unsuccessful.

Rees’ driver’s license was suspended permanently after he hit Porter with his car.

At a competency hearing in June 2002, it was publicly disclosed that Rees, who was injured while serving in World War II, was evaluated at Boston Veterans Administration Hospital in 1978. Health officials determined during that evaluation that Rees has suffered from dementia since 1975.

A psychologist testified at the same hearing that Rees has an IQ of 71. According to Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, an IQ of 71 is considered borderline deficient.

Police Chief Chapais said Friday that Rees is tentatively scheduled to appear in Ellsworth District Court on March 20.

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