ROCKLAND, Maine — A judge acquitted a 55-year-old Rockport man Tuesday of gross sexual assault before the jury also found the defendant not guilty of the remaining count of unlawful sexual contact.
Only moments after the prosecution rested its case and before the defense had even presented its first witness Tuesday morning, Justice Jeffrey Hjelm issued a verdict of acquittal on the more serious charge. The gross sexual assault charge would have required jurors to find that genital to genital contact had occurred between Arthur R. Dodge Jr. and the alleged victim.
It happens rarely, but a judge can issue such a ruling before the jury gets the case if the judge determines the state has not presented sufficient evidence for a charge to be considered. The judge called the prosecutor and defense attorney aside to tell them what he was doing but did not explain his ruling to the jurors or others in the courtroom.
He informed the jurors later that they would only have to decide the lesser charge of unlawful sexual contact. The jurors, who began their deliberations shortly before 2 p.m., took about 20 minutes to issue a not guilty verdict.
The victim in the case, who is now 14 years old, testified Monday about the offense which was alleged to have occurred in November 2011 when she was 11 years old.
Dodge did not testify.
On Tuesday, former Lincolnville and now Damariscotta Police Chief Ronald Young testified for the defense that when he interviewed the girl on an unrelated case after the alleged November incident, she said no one had ever sexually assaulted her.
The defense argued that the girl has mental health issues and had made up the allegation against Dodge because she had wanted to return to live with her mother. The girl had been living at the Dodge home at the time of the alleged crime.
In his closing argument, defense attorney Christopher MacLean said that actions speak louder than words and pointed out that the girl did not act toward Dodge like someone who had been assaulted. He also said that she told different stories each time she was interviewed and again on the witness stand.
He said her failure to recall details about even when the alleged incident occurred speaks loudly. MacLean told jurors that if something had happened, it would have been seared in her brain.
The defense attorney said Dodge and his family were fully cooperative with police.
Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Baroody asked jurors why the girl would have lied about such a thing. He also pointed out testimony from Dodge’s children about what they considered sexually suggestive behavior by the victim toward Dodge. Baroody said that the girl would have gotten those ideas from Dodge.
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.