A Maine lawyer facing disbarment over sexual abuse claims said during a hearing Friday that he wants to be elected district attorney, in part, to qualify for government benefits and then get the treatment he needs for “mental health problems.”
Seth Carey’s testimony came during the third day of hearings to decide whether the Republican nominee in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties will lose his license to practice law, a punishment that would prevent him from serving as district attorney.
Under questioning by his attorney, James Howaniec, Carey repeatedly became emotional, agreeing that he needs what Howaniec called “intensive psychiatric treatment” and saying he hasn’t been able to take medication, because he doesn’t have health insurance.
He later said under cross examination that the government benefits he would receive working as the top prosecutor in three counties would cover the treatment and counseling he needs, and it’s one of the reasons he won’t drop out of the race.
“I obviously need some help,” Carey said.
But when Howaniec asked Carey a series of questions about whether he was guilty of months of sexual harassment and abuse of a woman staying at his Rumford home, he repeatedly answered: “Absolutely not.”
The DA candidate said he had a “complicated relationship” with the woman, with whom he said he had an on-again, off-again romance involving consensual sex on multiple occasions.
Carey’s description of the relationship came in direct conflict with the testimony of the woman, who took the stand previously in the disbarment hearing and said she had consensual sex with Carey once, followed by months of sexual harassment and assault, including an instance in which he forced her head toward his crotch.
In March, a judge granted the woman a two-year protection-from-abuse order against Carey. This prompted the Board of Overseers of the Bar to bring the disbarment proceeding against the Auburn lawyer, whose license has been provisionally suspended since April.
On the witness stand Thursday, forensic psychologist Nadir Behrem said he diagnosed Carey with a “personality disorder” that includes “narcissistic features,” “suspiciousness and holding grudges,” and a tendency to escalate disagreements.
Howaniec suggested Friday those issues led Carey to make ill-advised decisions as an attorney, such as filing a lawsuit against judges who ruled against him, a suit that was thrown out Thursday by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
Howaniec tried to build the case Friday before Justice Thomas Warren that Carey is committed to receiving psychiatric treatment and legal supervision, and with that help, he should be allowed to continue practicing law.
Fellow attorneys Heather Seasonwein and Vernie Paradie, who were previously named court-appointed monitors of Carey’s law practice, each testified briefly Friday that Carey would benefit from mental health treatment, but that their experiences with him were generally positive.
Paradie, testifying by telephone, said he believes Carey is very intelligent and could still be an effective lawyer if he gets help.
But Deputy Bar Counsel Aria Eee, representing the Board of Overseers of the Bar, suggested Carey should focus on getting healthier before he focuses on campaigning for DA votes.
“Are you concerned that your personality disorder is impairing your ability to be more effective (as an attorney)?” Eee asked, following up with: “With all that you have on your plate, why not take a break, focus on you and run again in four years?”
“Because I know I can do the job, and I’m excited about the possibilities of getting the treatment that I need, having health care, getting a salary and not struggling so much,” Carey said. “And coming from the position from a criminal defense attorney position, giving people the fair and just treatment they need instead of just winning cases.”
But even if Warren agrees Carey can get enough of a handle on his mental health to manage a legal workload, the question of the alleged sexual misconduct looms.
As Howaniec told his client: “You’ve got your version, she’s got her version, and the court’s going to have to make its determination.”
Despite the allegations and his own party calling on him to drop out, Carey won a contested Republican primary for district attorney in June.
Being disbarred or having his license suspended would seem to disqualify Carey from taking office, as Maine law requires that district attorneys be lawfully admitted to the bar. But he will still appear on the November ballot.
The Maine Republican Party is not supporting Carey. He is running against Andrew Robinson, the incumbent Democrat.
The parties will return to court for closing arguments at a date to be determined in September or October. Warren said he would seek to provide a decision on the case “as soon as possible after that.”
If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 1-800-871-7741.
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