December 09, 2018
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Bristol man indicted on 10 counts of sex crimes against minor

Courtesy of Lincoln County Sheri
Courtesy of Lincoln County Sheri
Joseph A. Benner at the time of his arrest May 21.

A Bristol man who fractured his skull in an April 22 motorcycle crash while wanted by police is out of the hospital and under indictment on 10 counts of felony sex crimes against a minor.

Joseph A. Benner, 37, faces four counts of Class B gross sexual assault, two counts of Class B unlawful sexual contact and four counts of Class C sexual abuse of a minor, according to his Sept. 12 indictment. Benner denied the charges through his attorney.

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation upon receiving a referral from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, according to an affidavit by Detective Terry Michaud.

Michaud obtained a warrant for Benner’s arrest on a single count of Class A gross sexual assault April 18.

Two days later, the sheriff’s office posted a photo of Benner on its Facebook page and asked for tips regarding his whereabouts.

On April 22, Benner sustained what the sheriff’s office described at the time as life-threatening injuries in a motorcycle crash in Bristol.

Benner was operating a 2000 Harley-Davidson motorcycle on Foster Road, toward Route 32, at about 3 p.m., Lt. Michael Murphy said at the time. As he was going around a curve in the vicinity of 63 Foster Road, he went off the road and was thrown from the motorcycle.

The Central Lincoln County Ambulance Service took Benner to LincolnHealth’s Miles Campus in Damariscotta, then a LifeFlight helicopter flew him to Maine Medical Center in Portland, Murphy said.

Benner sustained a fractured skull, among other injuries, according to a court filing by his attorney.

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office arrested Benner May 21, after his release from the hospital. Due to his condition, deputies allowed him to bail from home and did not take him to jail, Murphy said.

On July 21, the sheriff’s office summonsed Benner on a charge of Class D operating under the influence in connection with the crash, Murphy said. Speed was also a factor, he said at the time of the crash.

Portland attorney Thomas F. Hallett is representing Benner.

An Aug. 27 motion by Hallett seeks to undermine the credibility of the minor. The minor “has a motive to fabricate a false story against” Benner, Hallett said in the motion.

The motion sought to obtain the minor’s DHHS records. On Aug. 28, District Court Judge Barbara Raimondi ordered DHHS to produce the records.

If DHHS identifies portions of the records as irrelevant or particularly sensitive, a judge will review those records and determine whether to withhold them.

The state “has a weak case against Mr. Benner,” Hallett said in an email response to a request for comment. “The complainant has made prior false accusations and for whatever reason has lost her way.

“I anticipate going to trial, at which time I believe my client’s good name will be cleared.”

Benner will appear in court for arraignment at 1 p.m. Oct. 22.

He is free on $1,500 cash bail. His bail conditions prohibit contact with the minor or any child under the age of 16, with the exception of certain relatives under their parents’ supervision.

Benner has prior convictions of Class C eluding an officer and Class D domestic violence assault in connection with incidents on Aug. 3, 2014, when he assaulted a woman, then led deputies on a high-speed chase around Bristol.

If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 1-800-871-7741.

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