PORTLAND, Maine — The state’s high court has upheld a lower court conviction of a Jay man who sexually assaulted a girl he hypnotized.
Aaron J. Patton, 39, was found guilty last year in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn of four counts of gross sexual assault, two counts of sexual abuse of a minor and one count of unlawful sexual contact. He was sentenced to six years in prison, plus four years of probation.
The girl had begun hypnotism treatments with Patton to help break a fingernail-biting habit when she was 8 years old, she testified during the jury trial. She said Patton began touching her breasts and private parts when she was 12. His advances escalated two years later when he took her into a bedroom and had sex with her in front of a mirror so they could watch, she testified.
The two were soon having sex about once a week in Livermore Falls, she said. After each sexual encounter, he would hypnotize her in an effort to make her feel more comfortable about their trysts, she said.
Patton practiced hypnotherapy on others and advertised in a local newspaper and on a sign at a Livermore Falls home that he used as his office. He said he used hypnosis to help people break bad habits, such as smoking, and as a form of entertainment at parties.
Testifying at trial, Patton said he had sex with the girl, but that she was 16 at the time. Maine law defines 16 as the age of consent.
When police searched Patton’s Jay apartment, they found lingerie he had bought for the girl, along with sex aids and a copy of the book: “Sex and Hypnosis.”
During Patton’s February appeal before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in Portland, his attorney, Donald Hornblower, argued the lower court made at least four errors during trial.
The court allowed a police officer, a witness for the prosecution, to testify over Patton’s objection about his assertion of his right to remain silent shortly before his arrest.
Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice Donald Marden also shouldn’t have allowed at Patton’s trial evidence of his use of hypnosis, Patton argued through his attorney.
A police officer who testified at the trial repeated prejudicial hearsay evidence, Patton argued.
And Marden misstated instructions to the jury, Patton argued.
In the high court’s unanimous decision, Jon D. Levy addressed all of Patton’s arguments of appeal.
Levy wrote that evidence of Patton seeking advice from an attorney “was not sufficiently harmful to have affected the jury’s verdict.”
Levy also wrote that: “The evidence concerning hypnosis that was introduced in this case was relevant not to establish the reliability of hypnosis but rather to explain an activity that Patton engaged in with the victim as part of their relationship and which he used as justification for being alone with her.” The court also concluded that the girl’s testimony about hypnosis was factual and based on her experience resulting in reasonable inferences and not opinion.
Levy wrote that there was no unfair prejudice and no obvious error in the hearsay statements given by police.
Lastly, Levy wrote that the omission of a word during oral jury instruction resulted in “no obvious error.” The word similar had, in fact, been included elsewhere in the jury instructions and its omission didn’t change the meaning of the instructions.
“Therefore the instructions were sufficient to inform the jury of the elements required for it to find Patton guilty,” Levy wrote.
Patton had played minor roles in several major motion pictures and on TV while living in California before moving to Maine.