May 28, 2018
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Knox County court fails to find enough jurors for one of two sex assault trials

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — A jury was selected Wednesday for the upcoming trial of a 54-year-old Rockport man accused of sexually assaulting a child, but the court was unable to find enough jurors for a separate sex assault trial that was to be held next week.

Defense attorney Steven Peterson of Rockport said this was the first time in his more than 30 years of practicing law that he has not been able to get a jury seated for a trial.

Peterson represents Erik L. Vultee, 44, of Rockport, who is charged with 10 counts of unlawful sexual contact, and single counts of gross sexual assault, visual aggression against a child, sexual misconduct with a child, and unlawful sexual touching.

Vultee was arrested in December and indicted in February for the offenses that are alleged to have occurred between June 2009 and December 2011 involving a girl who was younger than 14 years old.

The attempt to select a jury in Knox County Superior Court for the Vultee trial came after the court was able to select one for the trial of 55-year-old Arthur R. Dodge Jr. of Rockport. Dodge is accused of one count each of gross sexual assault and unlawful sexual contact involving a girl younger than 14 in November 2011 in Rockport.

A pool of 85 potential jurors appeared in court Wednesday to be selected for the two unrelated trials. Peterson said that the court was not going to use the same jurors selected Wednesday morning for the Dodge case to also sit for Vultee’s trial, so that reduced the number of potential jurors for his client’s trial.

Peterson said a lot of people did not want to serve on a sex abuse trial which reduced the number of potential jurors even further.

The defense attorney said he was surprised that a jury could not be selected, pointing out that a jury was able to be selected last year for the case of convicted child murderer Dennis Dechaine on a drug charge in Knox County. That case ended in June 2012 with a plea before the trial began.

Because a jury could not be selected and because of already scheduled trials, the Vultee case has been rescheduled for May 2014.

According to an affidavit filed by a Maine State Police detective in the Vultee case, the alleged victim reported that Vultee watched her and her sister on numerous occasions. When the girl was at his home, Vultee would tell her to come upstairs and he would show her “dirty movies” and then make her undress and he would assault her.

Vultee threatened to hurt or kill the girl if she reported his actions, the child told the detective, according to the affidavit.

When confronted, Vultee denied the allegations, according to the affidavit.

The Dodge trial is scheduled to begin Monday.

Court records show that Dodge was sentenced in 1990 to five years in jail with all but two years suspended for unlawful sexual contact in 1989 involving two young children who were at his mother’s day care center. He also was placed on probation for four years with the condition that he not have any unsupervised contact with children under 16 years old. At the time, Justice Margaret Kravchuk called Dodge a danger to the community, particularly to young children.

Dodge was arrested on the new charge in March 2013.

Both Dodge and Vultee are free on bail.

To reach a sexual assault advocate, call the Statewide Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Line at 800-871-7741, TTY 888-458-5599. This free and confidential 24-hour service is accessible from anywhere in Maine. Calls are automatically routed to the closest sexual violence service provider.

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