ELLSWORTH, Maine — A former Gouldsboro man who originally was accused of raping his wife was sentenced Wednesday to serve 21 days behind bars for assault.
Filler was re-tried in May but was acquitted of rape and found guilty of misdemeanor assault. Filler, who got divorced from his former wife last year, now lives in suburban Atlanta with his two sons. As part of the divorce, Filler was awarded sole custody of the boys, who are now 5 and 14 years old.
Filler was accused of physically assaulting his wife twice, once by throwing a cup of water in her face, and of sexually assaulting her once. She testified that during an April 2007 argument over her use of the family car, Filler pinned her against a clothes washer in the bathroom of their Gouldsboro home and forcibly sodomized her.
On Wednesday, First Assistant Hancock County District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh told Justice Robert Murray that a jail sentence between 60 and 90 days would be appropriate, along with an unspecified “mid-range” fine and some sort of reimbursement fee to the county. The prosecutor said that, though Filler has no prior criminal record, he found Filler’s testimony throughout the legal proceedings to be “troubling.”
Filler, Cavanaugh said, has declined to take any responsibility for his legal problems. He said Filler has continually portrayed himself as a good father but that the facts of the case indicate otherwise.
“You can’t be a good father when you assault your children’s mother,” Cavanaugh said. “You can’t hide behind your kids to avoid the consequences of your conduct.”
Filler’s defense attorney, Stephen C. Smith of Bangor, recommended to Murray that his client receive a fine and no jail time. He said Filler has gone through a lot since 2007, including more than four years of bail conditions — which Filler never violated — and tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Smith said the nature of the physical assault, in which Filler grabbed his ex-wife and pushed her into a chair, was minor. The only physical indication that an assault occurred was a bruise that appeared on Filler’s ex-wife two days later, he said.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, this is a 1,” Smith said of the severity of the assault.
Smith added that, in his opinion, Filler’s ex-wife came up with the allegations against his client to use as leverage in the divorce.
“It is a continuation of a custody fight that she has lost in spades,” Smith told the judge.
Filler made only one short statement to the judge during the proceeding.
“I love my children and I will always fight to protect them,” he said, placing his hands on the defense table and leaning forward to speak into a microphone.
Besides Filler and the attorneys, no one else addressed the court during the sentencing. Filler’s ex-wife did not attend the proceeding.
In announcing his sentence for Filler, Murray said that jail time was warranted because of the rough physical treatment Filler had given his wife. The judge declined to impose probation or a fine as part of the sentence, saying that probation would be impractical with Filler living in Georgia. The 21-day sentence will have to be served in its entirety without any portion suspended, he said.
Smith told Murray that Filler plans to appeal the sentence, at which point the judge granted a stay pending the outcome of the appeal.
After the proceeding, Cavanaugh said he thought the 21-day sentence was appropriate.
“The state was satisfied that the court recognized the violence and domination inherent in a husband assaulting a wife,” the prosecutor said.
Cavanaugh said that, in its earlier review of the case, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court determined there was enough evidence for a trial to proceed. Because of this, he said, he doubts Filler’s appeal will be successful.
Smith said after the proceeding that the 21-day sentence was “unfortunately stiff.” He said Filler is appealing the misdemeanor assault conviction because he believes the evidence in the case — the ex-wife’s word and the appearance of a bruise two days after the fact — is fairly unconvincing.
“The evidence presented to the jury [on the misdemeanor assault charge] was really pretty weak,” he said.
Smith predicted it will take several more months to decide the outcome of Filler’s appeal. He said Filler is expected to return to Georgia quickly so he can get his sons enrolled and started in the coming school year.