AUGUSTA, Maine — In his opening statement Monday, a prosecutor told a jury that the trial of a Lincoln County sheriff’s deputy charged with sexually abusing three young teens is about trust — “the trust we put in law enforcement … and the trust of a child not to be abused.”
Kenneth L. Hatch III, 47, has pleaded not guilty to 22 felony counts, including 14 counts of sexually abusing three minor teens, allegedly often in the back of his cruiser and often in exchange for marijuana.
One other count alleges he abused one of the girls when she was 6 years old.
“What the evidence in this case will show is that the defendant was a decorated deputy by day and a different person after dark,” Assistant Attorney General John Risler said Monday. “He used his position of trust as a deputy … as a friend for his own personal benefit, in seeking sexual gratification from children and underaged teenaged girls.”
Risler said the victims were not “perfect” and had behavioral and substance abuse problems.
“None of these things make them less of a victim,” the prosecutor said. “If anything, that shows why they were picked by the defendant to be abused.”
Hatch, named Lincoln County Deputy of the Year in 2016, is represented by attorney Richard Elliott, who on Monday asked jurors to “assess the credibility” and “the actual look” of the victims when they testify.
“Ken Hatch did not do this. Ken Hatch is going to tell you he did not do this,” Elliott said. “My job is to tell you that, even if you believe the state on some of these allegations,” the alleged crimes couldn’t have occurred within the timeline alleged.
The first witness, now 30 years old, said she was 14 when she began spending time at Hatch’s Whitefield home, where he lived with his wife and two children. She said she and other teens rode all-terrain vehicles and played cribbage there, and that she at times spent as many as five nights per week there.
But she said Hatch made inappropriate comments about her body and others’ and would touch her “anywhere.” She said Hatch touched her breasts in the presence of his wife, provided her Bacardi Limon and other liquor, and bought her items including a dress for a school dance. Risler provided a photo of her wearing that dress as evidence.
The alleged victim cried as said described three sexual encounters with Hatch, once while in his cruiser, while he wore his brown deputy uniform and once in Hatch’s bedroom when his family was at a soccer game.
After that, she said, “I didn’t want to be there anymore.”
Elliott questioned the alleged victim at length, arguing that according to her own testimony she would have been 16 years old, making the act legal.
“That would coincide with a state worker being paid to come in and tell you what the dates are that are important — that it’s important that you [were] 14 or 15?” he said. “That’s all come back to you now?”
She said she became addicted to drugs “after my time spent at his house.”
“Because Ken so traumatized you?” Elliott asked, to which she responded, “Yes.”
Another alleged victim, now 26, told the jury she and other kids spent time at Hatch’s house, at first catching frogs and “doing kid stuff,” and later going to hockey games and “things our parents couldn’t afford to do.”
She said when she was about 10, he began abusing her, in his house, during “ridealongs” in his cruiser, at the Wiscasset Police Station and once while she was sleeping in a tent outside his house.
“He did it all the time,” she said, her voice cracking. She alleged he left Bacardi in the freezer for her to drink, and left marijuana for her in a cupboard, adding that she’s currently in an intensive treatment program for opioid addiction.
The trial is expected to last at least a week.
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