Judge rejects plea deal, calls Orono man’s alleged crimes ‘monstrous acts’

Posted Aug. 28, 2014, at 1:21 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 28, 2014, at 1:56 p.m.
Wyatt Higgins-Tripp
Penobscot County Jail
Wyatt Higgins-Tripp

BANGOR, Maine — A Superior Court judge Thursday rejected the plea deal of an Orono man indicted on 135 charges in connection with the sexual abuse of four boys between 2004 and 2012.

Wyatt Higgins-Tripp, 40, pleaded guilty July 29 to 15 of the 135 charges on which he was indicted. In a plea agreement with the Penobscot County district attorney’s office, the remaining 120 counts were to be dismissed at the sentencing.

Justice William Anderson said he rejected the deal that would have sent Higgins-Tripp to prison for 10 years because it was not long enough behind bars for “the monstrous acts he committed.”

Anderson also said that Higgins-Tripp has shown no genuine remorse, even though he apologized to the victims when he entered his guilty pleas. The judge, who listened to taped conversations at the Penobscot County Jail between the defendant and his husband, said Higgins-Tripp seemed more concerned about avoiding a long sentence than his victims.

The judge did not say what he believed would be an appropriate sentence.

By rejecting the plea agreement, Anderson effectively withdrew Higgins-Tripp’s pleas for him. The defendant will have to decide whether to go to trial or renegotiate a deal with the Penobscot County district attorney’s office.

Alice Clifford, assistant district attorney for Penobscot County, recommended last month a sentence of 25 years with all but 10 years suspended and 25 years of probation. The defense was free to argue for a lesser sentence.

Clifford said outside the courthouse Thursday that she was not surprised by Anderson’s decision and was prepared to go to trial.

Defense attorney Robert Van Horn of Ellsworth urged Anderson to put his client behind bars for 59 months rather than a decade, so the defendant could be immediately sent to the Maine Correctional Center in Windham and begin sex offender treatment through a program there. Van Horn agreed with the underlying 25-year sentence and the term of probation.

Van Horn declined to speak with reporters after the hearing.

In July, two of Higgins-Tripp’s alleged victims, now teenagers, urged Anderson to impose a harsh sentence.

Higgins-Tripp was indicted by the Penobscot County grand jury in June 2013 on 36 counts of gross sexual assault, 48 counts of unlawful sexual contact and 10 counts of sexual abuse of a minor. At that time, police said he sexually abused a young male relative for more than eight years.

In February 2014, the Penobscot County grand jury indicted Tripp on six counts of gross sexual assault, 25 counts of sexual abuse of a minor and 10 counts of unlawful sexual contact involving the four additional victims.

Higgins-Tripp has been held at the Penobscot County Jail since April 10, 2013, unable to make bail set at $20,000 cash.

He faces up to 30 years in prison on the most serious charges of gross sexual assault.

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.

 

CORRECTION:

An earlier version of the story reported that Wyatt Higgins-Tripp was charged in connection with the sexual abuse of five boys between 2004 and 2012. It was four boys.

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