ROCKLAND, Maine — The trial of a 55-year-old man accused of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl in 2011 was almost derailed before it could start Monday morning in Knox County Superior Court.
Before the trial started, two jurors were excused after they acknowledged they had read a story in Friday’s edition of the Bangor Daily News that mentioned a prior sex assault conviction against the defendant, Arthur R. Dodge Jr. of Rockport. Dodge is accused of one count each of gross sexual assault and unlawful sexual contact.
The loss of those two jurors left the panel at 12 with no alternates available. A third juror said she had starting reading the story, which focused on the inability of the court to empanel a jury last week in an unrelated sex assault trial against another defendant. The third juror, however, said she stopped reading when she saw Dodge’s name mentioned.
Defense attorney Christopher MacLean asked Justice Jeffrey Hjelm to excuse the third juror as well but Hjelm declined, pointing out that the woman said she had not read anything in the story after Dodge’s name was mentioned.
Once the jurors were seated Monday, Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Baroody said during his opening statement that the victim would testify about the sexual assault. The prosecutor also said that staff from the state’s crime laboratory will testify that Dodge’s DNA was found in sperm on the victim’s underwear.
MacLean countered that Dodge denies abusing the girl in “any way, shape or form.” He said this was a sad story of a girl who had been bounced around from one home to another and had been taken in by Dodge and his family.
The defense attorney said the girl has significant mental health problems, changed her stories repeatedly to police, and came up with the allegation against Dodge as a way to move back with her mother.
He said that the girl’s underwear was washed with everybody’s laundry including Dodge’s clothes.
The trial is expected to last a couple of days.
To reach a sexual assault advocate, call the Statewide Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Line at 800-871-7741, TTY 888-458-5599. This free and confidential 24-hour service is accessible from anywhere in Maine. Calls are automatically routed to the closest sexual violence service provider.