September 21, 2017
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Former Gouldsboro resident sues multiple agencies, officials over 2007 rape case

By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff

ELLSWORTH, Maine — A former Gouldsboro resident who was accused and then later acquitted of sexually assaulting his then-wife in 2007 has filed a civil lawsuit against several entities and people who were involved in prosecuting the criminal case.

A complaint dated Jan. 8 accuses a total of 16 defendants of violating the rights of Vladek Filler, who now lives in suburban Atlanta, by denying him due process and a fair trial and by depriving him of his rights. The 102-page document, a copy of which was provided by Filler’s attorneys, was filed Friday in Hancock County Superior Court in Ellsworth.

The complaint targets former Assistant District Attorney Mary Kellett, who was the lead prosecutor for Filler’s first trial, as well as former Hancock County district attorneys Michael Povich and Carletta “Dee” Bassano. Hancock and Washington counties, the city of Ellsworth and the town of Gouldsboro also are named as defendants in the lawsuit, as are former Deputy District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh, six law enforcement officers from various agencies and a nurse.

Filler, now 45, was accused of sexually assaulting his then-wife at their Gouldsboro home in April 2007. He denied the allegations, arguing his wife fabricated her accusations in order to gain leverage in a looming custody dispute over the couple’s two sons. Filler later was granted full custody of the boys in his subsequent divorce from his wife.

Filler was charged with two counts of gross sexual assault and three counts of simple assault and, at the end of a January 2009 trial, was found guilty of one gross sexual assault charge and two assault charges. That conviction later was thrown out, however, after the trial judge ruled Kellett had made inappropriate comments during her closing remarks to the jury.

At his retrial in May 2011, which was prosecuted by Cavanaugh, Filler was acquitted of gross sexual assault but was convicted on one simple assault charge and served 21 days in jail.

After his first trial, Filler filed a complaint against Kellett with the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar. He accused her of violating rules of the bar with comments she made during his January 2009 trial and by failing to provide evidence to Filler he believed supported his innocence.

In 2012, Filler testified to the board that, in her closing arguments to the jury, Kellett referred to the lack of evidence of a custody dispute in the case, even though there was such evidence and the judge had barred attorneys from introducing any of it into testimony.

He also told the board that before his first trial, Kellett inadequately responded to requests from his defense attorney for documents and other investigative materials and that she improperly advised an Ellsworth police officer not to comply with a subpoena from Filler’s attorney — despite a 2008 court ruling that ordered Kellett to hand over the requested materials to the defense attorney. Filler eventually was able to get copies of the requested materials directly from the Ellsworth Police Department, but not until after his first trial had ended.

The board of overseers later determined Kellett violated seven bar rules in prosecuting Filler’s case and recommended she be suspended. The following year, she was sanctioned by the state supreme court and ordered to undergo legal remediation for improperly handling the case against Filler.

With the election last fall of Matt Foster as the new district attorney for Hancock and Washington counties, Kellett has left the district attorney’s office and gone into private practice, according to prosecutors contacted Friday.

Filler’s attorneys in the lawsuit, Thomas Hallett and Timothy Zerillo, said Friday in a phone interview that the other defendants aside from Kellett were involved in the broader scheme that deprived Filler of his rights. The police officers named in the suit failed to provide evidence to Filler or his criminal defense attorneys despite their requests, while Povich and Bassano, who supervised Kellett in succession, supported Kellett’s actions in not gathering and disclosing potentially exculpatory evidence, Hallett and Zerillo indicated.

In the civil complaint, Filler’s attorneys accuse Povich of establishing some of the policies in the district attorney’s office that resulted in the official sanction against Kellett. Povich, who served as district attorney for Hancock and Washington counties from 1975 until his retirement in 2010, established a “culture” of not providing evidence to defense attorneys or their clients, Filler’s attorneys said, in order to limit information made accessible to criminal defendants.

“Povich acted with deliberate disregard as to the clearly established constitutional, statutory, and due process rights of criminal defendants, including Vladek Filler,” the complaint states.

In the complaint, Filler accuses Linda Gleason, a registered nurse and friend of Filler’s ex-wife, of knowingly participating in the effort to falsely accuse him.

He accuses Cavanaugh of publicly making false and defamatory statements about the matter last year when he ran for the Republican nomination for district attorney of Hancock and Washington counties. Cavanaugh, who lost the GOP nomination to Foster, now works as an assistant district attorney in Kennebec and Somerset counties.

Also named as defendants are current or former Washington County sheriff’s deputies Travis Willey, David Denbow and Michael Crabtree; former Gouldsboro police Chief Guy Wycoff; Ellsworth police Officer Chad Wilmot; and Detective Steve McFarland of the local district attorney’s office. Each of the governmental entities that employs the officers also is named in the complaint.

Representatives for a few of the defendants were contacted Friday and said that while they were aware a possible lawsuit was in the works, they had not yet seen the specific complaint.

Steve Joy, a Hancock County commissioner, said Friday he had heard the county might be sued over the Filler case but he declined further comment. Portland attorney Edward Benjamin said he had been retained to represent the city of Ellsworth and Officer Wilmot in the matter, but that he had not seen Filler’s complaint and had been unaware it had been filed in court.

Attempts to contact others named as defendants or their representatives were unsuccessful.


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