AUGUSTA, Maine — A Lincoln County sheriff’s deputy on trial for sexually abusing three minors, often in the back seat of his cruiser, took the stand in his own defense Thursday, telling jurors he never had sex with any of them, nor provided marijuana to them.
Kenneth L. Hatch III, 47, has pleaded not guilty to 22 felony counts, including 14 counts of sexually abusing three minors — one for the first time when she was allegedly 6.
All charges are Class C felonies except for one Class B count.
The trial started Monday, with two women testifying that Hatch allegedly sexually abused them when they were 14 and 15 years old, often during “ride-alongs.” Both said he provided them with alcohol and marijuana.
The third witness, now 19, testified on Tuesday, saying Hatch first abused her when she was 6. Then, when she was 14 and 15, she alleges he gave her marijuana and liquor if she’d have sex with him, often in the back of his cruiser.
The three alleged victims all said they and other young people, including some of Hatch’s relatives, “hung out” at Hatch’s house frequently, hunting, fishing and watching movies.
Hatch took the stand in his own defense at about 10 a.m. Thursday, telling the jury he was born in Maine, served in the Marine Corps for four years, and then worked for the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office until 1999, when he went to work for the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.
He worked in various positions including as a patrol officer and as a drug enforcement agent, he said.
Hatch told his attorney, Richard Elliott, that area teens and kids, would often gather at his Whitefield house.
“Most of these kids didn’t have a positive home life, including members of my family, and I wanted to take care of them,” he said.
He said the alleged victim who is now 19 became unhappy after he and his wife told her after she had a child that “we weren’t going to raise the child for her. It wasn’t that we weren’t going to help — we just weren’t going to do everything.”
Hatch said she was also unhappy after he and his wife said they couldn’t supervise visits with the child’s father after the alleged victim had taken out a protection-from-abuse order on him.
Responding to Elliott’s questions about specific dates in the victim’s testimony, Hatch said he couldn’t have been patrolling on a particular road on a specific date, as one witness had testified, because it wasn’t plowed in the winter. He acknowledged that he had worked a wedding detail at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens on Aug. 2, 2014, as one witness had testified — she recalled the date, she said, because Hatch allegedly abused her later in the day — but Hatch said he wore a suit and tie, not a uniform, as she alleged.
Just after 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Elliott asked Hatch to look at the jury and said, “Have you ever sexually touched or had sex with” each of the alleged victims, or given them marijuana.
To each question, he answered no.
Just before he rested, Hatch responded to a specific question from Elliott about a part of his anatomy — something Elliott implied the alleged victims would have noticed had he assaulted them, although each had said under cross-examination that they noticed nothing unusual.
During cross-examination, Assistant Attorney General John Risler, who is prosecuting the case, asked Hatch if he had any medical documentation about his condition, and he said no.
Just before he rested, Risler called a final witness, Chief Deputy Rand Maker of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. Maker told Risler that he supervised deputies working wedding details, and said he couldn’t recall an instance in which a deputy hadn’t worn a uniform.
Superior Court Justice William R. Stokes excused the jury at about 2 p.m. Thursday, telling them they should return Friday morning ready to hear closing arguments and receive instructions.