ELLSWORTH, Maine — Following a daylong trial Monday, a jury of eight women and four men found a Trenton man not guilty Monday of sexually assaulting a boy in his camper nearly three years ago.
William G. Rich, 25, had been accused of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy during a cookout at his mother’s property on or about June 15, 2008. After Rich and the alleged victim testified separately Monday in Rich’s trial, the jury deliberated for roughly an hour and 15 minutes before deciding Rich was not guilty of the charge of gross sexual assault.
During deliberations, the jury came back into the courtroom at Hancock County Superior Court for about 10 minutes to hear the boy’s testimony reread to them. After hearing the testimony reread, the jurors filed back into the jury room and deliberated for 10 more minutes before reaching a unanimous decision around 4:15 p.m.
The victim’s family was clearly upset at the verdict. One man stormed out of the courtroom, banging the door as he threw it open to leave, while another male relative began shouting and hitting a courtroom bench before another family member pulled him out of the courtroom. A third man said loudly, “God Bless America” before walking out.
Law enforcement officers stood by in the courthouse parking lot immediately after the trial ended to make sure all the parties left without any more commotion.
Rich had been accused of assaulting the boy nearly three years ago during an outdoor gathering at his mother’s property on Goose Cove Road, where he stayed several nights a week when not staying with his boyfriend in Bangor. Several members of Rich’s family and of the boy’s family, including children, were at the gathering. Rich is openly gay and at the time was best friends with the boy’s mother.
The boy, who is now 13 years old, testified earlier Monday that Rich sodomized him in a camper on the property where Rich was living with his family. The boy said he tried to cry out during the alleged attack, but Rich prevented him from doing so.
“Billy pushed my face into the bed,” he said, referring to Rich.
The alleged incident did not come to light until about a year later, when the boy’s mother said she found out about it and contacted police. The boy is developmentally disabled and has the intellectual capacity of a third- or fourth-grader, his mother testified Monday morning.
Rich also testified Monday, telling the jury that he had no memory of ever being in the camper with the boy. He said he remembers a cookout that happened on April 30, 2008, but that the only time he went to the camper was to retrieve a chair with another boy, not the alleged victim.
Rich’s mother had testified earlier that she remembered seeing the boy sitting on the floor of a bedroom in the camper during the cookout. She said the boy did not seem to be in any physical or mental distress when she saw him. Rich said his recollection of the boy being in the camper differed from his mother’s.
William Hooker, a jail inmate serving time on a probation violation for a gross sexual assault conviction, also testified Monday, telling the jury that Rich had told him in jail in August 2010 that he had assaulted the boy. Hooker, who had shared a cell unit with Rich, denied having read about the allegations against Rich from a police report Rich had with him in jail.
“In a nutshell, he said he had molested his best friend’s son,” Hooker said.
Rich said during his testimony that he never talked to Hooker about the allegations against him.
Rich’s defense attorney, Jeffrey Toothaker of Ellsworth, suggested during testimony and in his opening and closing statements that Hooker learned about the allegations against Rich by reading through Rich’s file while in jail. Hooker was hoping to reduce the time he might spend behind bars when he contacted police to tell them of Rich’s supposed confession, the defense attorney said.
“He was a man with a lot of time over his head, looking for an edge,” Toothaker told the jury. “He is the bottom of the barrel.”
Assistant Hancock County District Attorney Mary Kellett stressed during her statements that Hooker never requested and was never offered any deal in exchange for his testimony.
Kellett also drew attention to Rich’s interview in the fall of 2009 with Lt. Tim Cote of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department. Cote said that Rich initially denied that the boy or the boy’s mother had visited him at the Trenton property around the time the assault supposedly took place. Rich eventually walked out of his interview with Cote after becoming agitated, Cote said Monday.
After Cote’s testimony, Rich said he had become flustered and “mind-boggled” by the allegations during the police interview and later, after talking to his family, remembered that the boy and his mother had visited him in Trenton.
Kellett said Rich’s inconsistent statements suggested he might have something to hide.
“Why the absolute denial?” Kellett said to the jury in her closing statement. “That’s an issue in terms of evaluating credibility.”
After the trial ended, Kellett said she naturally was disappointed in the verdict.
“These are difficult cases,” she said.
Toothaker said after the trial that he was confident his client was innocent. He said that Hooker’s testimony was dubious but that the jury seemed to focus on the boy’s testimony, which he said lacked details. The boy’s testimony was vague in terms of when the attack happened and whether the assault was painful, he said.
Rich, the defense attorney said, did not say much after the trial ended before he hurried out of the building and drove away with his family.
“He was totally relieved,” Toothaker said.