AUGUSTA, Maine — A former Lincoln County sheriff’s deputy indicted in August on 22 counts of sexual abuse of a minor and other charges will be tried in Kennebec County, a Maine Superior Court justice has ruled.
Kenneth L. Hatch, 46, of Whitefield has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of sexual abuse of a minor, three counts of unlawful sexual contact, and eight counts of aggravated furnishing of marijuana. The drug counts allege that he gave marijuana from a bag marked “EVIDENCE” to two of his three alleged victims, two of whom were 14 or 15 at the time of the alleged incidents.
The alleged sexual assaults against the third victim, which resulted in Hatch’s arrest in June, reportedly first occurred in 2004 when she was 6, Assistant Attorney General John Risler, who is prosecuting the case, told the grand jury in August. The indictments then allege that Hatch sexually assaulted the same girl and provided her marijuana in 2013 and 2014, when she was 14 and 15.
In August, the prosecution asked for a change of venue, raising concerns with trying the case in Lincoln County due to “the perception of and potential impact on the alleged victims of having to attend court where the defendant’s former colleagues are responsible for court security.” Furthermore, they raised questions of the ability to seat a jury, and that “the Wiscasset courthouse is not equipped to accommodate such a large jury pool.”
Hatch’s attorney, Richard Elliott, argued to keep the case in Lincoln County, writing that the change of venue would require Hatch, his witnesses, attorney and family to travel to Augusta, and that due to news coverage of the case so far, potential jurors statewide are just as likely to be familiar with the case.
In December, Maine Superior Court Justice William R. Stokes ordered transferred the case from Lincoln County to Kennebec County, with jury selection tentatively scheduled for July 2017.
Hatch was placed on paid administrative leave after his arrest in June, but his status was changed to unpaid leave after the grand jury indictments and pending further investigation.
Hatch joined the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office in 1999. He was named its Deputy of the Year in April.
Hatch had previously been reprimanded twice and demoted to patrol officer for offenses the Maine attorney general’s office declined to prosecute at the time.
Hatch is scheduled to appear at the Capital Judicial Center on Feb. 16.