ELLSWORTH, Maine — A Bucksport man was acquitted Friday in Hancock County Superior Court of 12 counts of sexually abusing a young girl.
Steve Kane, 49, was accused of abusing the girl, a family friend, over a period of nearly three years, from August 2008 until March of 2011, according to superior court documents. The girl was 12 years old when the alleged assaults began and 14 when they supposedly came to an end.
Kane was charged with six counts of unlawful sexual contact, four counts of gross sexual assault and two counts of sexual abuse of a minor.
After Daniel Pileggi, Kane’s defense attorney, and Assistant Hancock County District Attorney Mary Kellett each made their closing arguments Friday morning, the jury deliberated for about half an hour before it reached a verdict of not guilty on all counts, Kellett said.
Kellett said Friday after the trial was over that these types of sexual abuse cases often are difficult for juries to decide. When there is a pattern of assaults that happen repeatedly over an extended period of time, the evidence often consists just of one person’s word against another.
“We are never going to have evidence with unlawful sexual contact cases” she said. “As we all know, sex crimes don’t happen in front of witnesses.”
Kellett said that, if someone’s claims about being sexually abused are credible, the district attorney has to take them seriously even if the case does not involve any physical evidence or third-party witnesses. The alternative, she said, would be to let possible sex assaults go unaddressed.
“We have an obligation to prosecute,” Kellett said.
Pileggi could not be reached later Friday afternoon for comment.
During his closing arguments Friday morning, Pileggi highlighted not just the lack of physical evidence but the number of people known to come and go from the Kane family home, where Kane ran his retail clam business and where the assaults supposedly took place. He said no one besides the alleged victim ever told police about his client being left alone with her, and there was no indication of any escalating inappropriate behavior from Kane toward the girl.
Pileggi also told the jury it was odd that the alleged victim could provide few details about the incidents. She could not provide police with physical descriptions of what she saw during the alleged assaults, he said, nor could she provide details about what happened immediately before and after they supposedly took place.
“What is there to support the story she told you [Thursday]? Nothing,” Pileggi said. “This case is full of holes.”
During her closing argument and rebuttal, Kellett said there were plenty of times during which the assaults could have occurred, whether other people were in the house or not.
Kellett said the allegations against Kane came out at school when a teacher the girl trusted told her she looked sad and asked what was wrong. The teacher’s question was posed a week after the final alleged assault occurred, when the girl was feeling vulnerable, the prosecutor said. The girl broke down and everything “came out,” she said.