ELLSWORTH, Maine — A Gouldsboro man convicted in January of sexually assaulting his wife will get a new trial after a judge ruled that the prosecutor prejudiced the jury during closing arguments.
A jury found Vladek Filler, 39, guilty of one count of gross sexual assault and two counts of misdemeanor assault after a four-day trail and nearly nine hours of deliberation. He was acquitted on four additional counts of gross sexual assault.
Hancock County Superior Court Justice Kevin Cuddy accepted the jury’s verdict on Jan. 15, prompting Filler’s attorney to file a motion for a new trial.
Cuddy granted the new trial in a ruling last week.
Attorney Daniel Pileggi claimed the jurors in Filler’s case were prejudiced because Hancock County Assistant District Attorney Mary Kellett made statements during her closing arguments about things that were deemed off-limits at the trial’s outset.
Filler was charged in April 2007 after police investigated claims from his wife of an alleged assault. The woman said her husband became angry with her and forced her to perform a sex act. She further alleged that Filler assaulted her often and that she kept a journal of the assaults.
By the time the case went to trial, Filler and his wife were in the process of getting divorced. Part of that proceeding involved custody of the couple’s two sons, ages 3 and 12.
At the beginning of the assault trial, Justice Cuddy made it clear he would not allow any evidence of the child custody dispute during the man’s rape trial.
Kellett referred to that dispute during her closing arguments. In his motion for a new trial, Pileggi said that if he knew Kellett was going to make reference to the child custody case, he would have told his client’s side of the story as well.
“As a result of the court’s effort to sanitize the criminal proceeding, Mr. Filler was deprived of the opportunity to present the jury a complete picture of the relationship, and a context for Mrs. Filler’s allegation,” Pileggi wrote.
Cuddy, in his ruling on the motion dated March 5, agreed.
“The court excluded from evidence facts relating to the child custody dispute that was pending during the time of the alleged criminal conduct,” Cuddy wrote. “Nonetheless, one of the major points of the prosecution in its closing argument was on this missing evidence on behalf of the defendant on the child custody dispute or fight.
“Having reviewed in detail the closing arguments of counsel in the context of the jury verdict, the court is satisfied that the interest of justice require that the motion for a new trial be and is hereby granted.”
The new trial will be scheduled for a later date, Pileggi said, although Filler will face only the three charges on which he was convicted. It’s not clear whether Kellett will prosecute Filler again.
The prosecutor could not be reached for comment over the weekend.