ELLSWORTH, Maine — A former Gouldsboro man testified in his own defense Thursday afternoon in Hancock County Superior Court, telling a jury that he never assaulted or raped his wife.
Vladek Filler, 41, is accused of throwing water in his wife’s face in December 2005 and of assaulting her and raping her in April 2007.
Filler originally was tried on the allegations in early 2009 and found guilty. But the previous trial judge and then the state supreme court ordered a retrial after Filler argued that the case’s previous prosecutor, Assistant Hancock County District Attorney Mary Kellett, inappropriately raised during closing arguments an issue that had been barred from testimony.
The defense rested its case around 3: 30 p.m. Thursday. Closing arguments and then jury deliberations are expected to begin at 9 a.m. Friday morning.
On Thursday, under direct questioning by his defense attorney Stephen C. Smith of Bangor, Filler said “no” several times when asked if he had done certain things.
He denied forcibly sodomizing his wife or assaulting her in any way. He said that she punched him in the face during the December 2005 argument but that he did not throw her out of the house, prevent her from using the plumbing, or otherwise retaliate. He denied preventing her from using the family car or disabling the car, though he did say he asked her in December 2005 not to use the car with the children because he thought it was not reliable.
Filler contends that his marriage to his estranged wife was failing and that she fabricated the allegations against him in order to gain a tactical advantage over him in the looming custody battle over their two sons, who are now 5 and 14 years old. Filler since has been granted custody of the two boys, who live with him in suburban Atlanta.
He testified Thursday that in early 2007, he told his wife he was making plans to leave her. She had an “extremely emotional” negative reaction to this news, he said.
“It [became] a constant ongoing subject of arguments and discussion and plans and negotiations” between him and his wife, Filler said.
According to testimony, things came to a head on Saturday, April 21, when Filler’s wife went to pick up her daughter, who was fathered by another man, at the Bangor bus station. Filler’s wife took their infant son with her but, after picking up her daughter, who is now 21, she went to a friend’s house and then spent the night at another friend’s house in Steuben. She and Filler have been separated ever since.
Under cross-examination by prosecutor Paul Cavanaugh, Filler said he was concerned but not hysterical when his wife and toddler son did not return later that day. He said he became more concerned on Sunday morning when she still had not returned home with the child, who then was less than 2 years old.
Cavanaugh pressed Filler about statements he supposedly had made to his children’s guardian during subsequent divorce proceedings about his wife being violent with his children. If she was known to be violent, Cavanaugh asked, why didn’t he call police right away on Saturday?
Filler said his wife had “taken off” unexpectedly before for several hours, but always returned home.
“I had no idea she abducted our child,” Filler said. “I figured it was one of those kinds of episodes. My [14-year old] son was begging me to call the police.”
Filler said he called a friend of his wife’s Sunday morning to try to track down his younger son, but did not find out where the boy was. He was about to call the police next, he said, when they pulled up in his driveway, after his wife had called police from Steuben to file a complaint that Filler assaulted and raped her earlier that month.
Filler’s 14-year-old son also testified Thursday afternoon. The teenager said his father and mother argued frequently before they separated but said he never saw Filler strike his mother.
The boy testified that, during the December 2005 argument during which Filler allegedly twice threw water from a cup into his mother’s face, he saw his mother strike Filler in the face. He said he never saw his father throw water on his mother. The boy was 9 at the time.
When Cavanaugh asked the boy why he waited more than a year to tell anyone about seeing the altercation, the boy shrugged.
“I was just a kid,” he said. “I didn’t want to bring attention [to it].”
When asked by Cavanaugh if he loved his mother, the boy said, “Hard to say.” The boy added he had not seen his mother since his parents’ divorce proceedings were held in November 2009.
Immediately after the state rested its case Thursday morning, Smith moved to have the charges dismissed. His request was denied.
Smith told Justice Robert Murray in the judge’s chambers that the case should be dismissed because there is no physical evidence to support the sexual assault allegation against his client. Smith added that Filler’s wife testified her memory was unclear about the alleged physical assaults and, though there was testimony about Filler’s wife having a bruise around the time of the second alleged assault, there has been no clear evidence introduced at trial about how she got that bruise.
“This is a person who has problems with reality,” Smith told the judge. “I would suggest to the court that her credibility is suspect.”
Cavanaugh, in a brief response to Smith’s motion, said the state supreme court already had reviewed the allegations against Filler and declined to dismiss the case. Cavanaugh added that the Law Court has ruled that allegations without physical evidence are enough to bring charges against alleged perpetrators.
In denying the motion to dismiss on Thursday, Justice Murray said it is up to the jury to decide whether the evidence presented is credible enough to convict Filler.
The state rested its case late Thursday morning after calling two Gouldsboro police officers and a friend of Filler’s wife to the witness stand. The police officers testified separately that Filler’s wife told them in mid-April 2007 she had been raped by Filler a few weeks earlier. The officers also testified that each had told Filler’s wife she should get a post-rape medical exam. Each officer also indicated that to his knowledge, she never did.
The friend of Filler’s wife testified Thursday morning that she drove Filler’s wife to a friend’s house in Steuben on Saturday, April 21, 2007, but that she did not know the friend’s name or remember how to get there. When Filler called her the next day to ask where his family was, the friend said she told him truthfully that she did not know.