MACHIAS, Maine — Two days before he was due to go on trial for the second time for the sexual abuse of two young girls, Troy Claridge, 39, of Calais hammered out a deal and pleaded no contest Thursday to two counts of assault and a felony probation violation. The plea resulted in his being sentenced to serve five years in jail.
Claridge was originally accused and convicted of molesting two 14-year-old girls from Calais in November 2006. The incident allegedly happened at his home in Calais, and the girls were his children’s friends. That conviction later was overturned in a mistrial.
On Thursday, in Washington County Superior Court, Claridge was sentenced to five years in jail for the probation violation, and 11 months on each of two assault convictions. No time was suspended.
All of the sentences will be served concurrently with two drug trafficking convictions that Claridge is now serving at the Maine State Prison.
First Assistant District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh said in court Thursday that there has been a “plethora of litigation surrounding this case.”
One of the victims lives in Colorado, he said, and the other is receiving mental health care.
“It makes practical sense to close this case,” he said.
The downgrade from sexual abuse charges to Class D assault conviction was “a compromise resolution based on a lot of different factors,” Justice Kevin M. Cuddy said moments before imposing sentence.
Last December, Claridge’s February 2009 conviction on the original sexual abuse charges resulted in a mistrial.
Claridge’s conviction was thrown out because of inconsistencies in the testing of his DNA at the Maine State Police Crime Laboratory in Augusta. Lab workers testified last year that skin samples submitted for DNA in Claridge’s case had been mixed up with two others and that crime lab personnel failed to disclose the mix-up in advance of the trial.
Claridge’s original conviction, however, was based on a positive identification of his semen that was taken from the victims’ clothing, not skin samples.
Two of those original charges were dismissed after the alleged second victim ended up in the hospital on the eve of the trial and was unable to testify. Since the charges were dismissed without prejudice, Cavanaugh was free to lodge them again.
After the hearing that resulted in the mistrial last December, Maine State Police Crime Lab Director Elliot Kollman said the public still should have full confidence in the forensic work done at the lab and called the mistake an anomaly.
Cavanaugh said Claridge’s violation of conditions of bail conviction stems from a telephone call Claridge made to one of his victims in 2007 after he drove by her while she walked along a sidewalk in Calais.