ELLSWORTH, Maine — A Hancock County jury Friday found a former Gouldsboro man not guilty of raping his spouse. The jurors, however, did find him guilty on one of two misdemeanor counts of assault against his estranged wife.
The verdict in the trial of Vladek Filler, 41, came after nearly a full day of deliberations by the jury. Members of Filler’s family, including his 14-year-old son Nathan, who testified earlier this week, wiped tears from their eyes before and after the verdict was announced.
A subdued Filler hugged family members during a break after the verdict and spoke quietly to his son before the boy left the courtroom. Filler later left the courtroom without talking to reporters.
Prosecutor Paul Cavanaugh said outside the courtroom after the verdict that he was not entirely surprised by the result.
“The state is satisfied that the jury examined the evidence and testimony and returned a guilty verdict on the count of assault that had a photo of a bruise [on Filler’s wife’s arm],” he said. “One of the trends we’re seeing in jury verdicts is the CSI effect; juries have the expectation that there is always going to be some sort of physical corroborating evidence. It makes great TV, but it’s not always true in real life.”
“So while the verdict on the sexual assault is not a surprise, it is a disappointment,” Cavanaugh said.
Defense attorney Stephen C. Smith of Bangor said he was very pleased with the verdict.
“This has been a long struggle,’’ Smith said outside the courtroom. ”Vladek and his two children are living in Georgia and trying to put this very unpleasant chapter in their lives behind them. I am disappointed that [the charges] made it this far.”
In the courtroom earlier, Smith indicated to Justice Robert Murray that he planned to appeal Filler’s conviction on the misdemeanor assault charge.
Filler had been charged in three separate incidents spanning two years. The first misdemeanor assault charge stemmed from an incident in December 2005 when he was accused of yelling at her and throwing water in her face; the gross sexual assault charge from an incident in April 2007, and the second assault charge from an incident a few days later.
Testimony in the trial began on Tuesday and ended on Thursday. It included a description by Filler’s wife of the assaults, including the altercation in which she alleged that her husband had pinned her against the laundry machines in the bathroom of their home and forcibly sodomized her. The jury also heard a disturbing tape made by a Washington County sheriff’s deputy of the woman screaming incoherently after she was found on April 24, 2007, barefoot in a bra and pants in a blueberry field carrying her 18-month-old son.
That incident occurred a little more than two weeks after the woman said she was raped by her husband.
Both attorneys referred to that tape during closing arguments on Friday. Cavanaugh pointed to the tape as evidence that under constant abuse by her husband, the woman had reached her breaking point and was desperate to keep custody of her children.
“He broke her,” the prosecutor said. “She was at the end of her rope.”
He encouraged the jury to recall the tape.
“Was this a woman who was manipulating or conniving? Was this a woman who was getting even? Or can you hear the pain in her voice; can you hear the loss in her voice?”
Smith, on the other hand, said the tape revealed a woman who was “barking mad” and the ravings of a woman who would do anything to keep custody of her children. Filler and his wife are in the process of making their divorce final, but Filler has been granted custody of their two sons, who are now 5 and 14 years old.
“It’s a terrible thing for a mother not to have her children,” Smith said. “But this is about: Does she have a motivation to tell a story that is not necessarily true?”
Smith also noted that there was a lack of evidence in the case and stressed that Filler had not gotten a post-rape medical exam, which police had advised her to do.
After the jury’s verdict, Justice Murray allowed Filler to remain free on the existing bail, despite the prosecution’s request that he be held without bail until sentencing. Although Cavanaugh had argued that Filler has interests outside the state and country — he lives in Atlanta — Smith noted that despite living out of state, his client had appeared regularly in several civil and criminal trials since the initial charges were filed in 2007.
Cavanaugh indicated that Filler’s wife and several other interested parties wanted to address the court before sentencing. Justice Murray agreed that could not be easily done on Friday and postponed sentencing, but did not set a specific date. It wasn’t clear Friday what penalty Filler faces on the misdemeanor assault charge.
Filler was tried and convicted on all three charges in 2009. The trial judge, and then the state supreme court, ordered a retrial in the case after Filler’s attorney filed an objection to comments that Assistant Hancock County District Attorney Mary Kellett made during her closing arguments.