Upon arresting the man accused of killing a Somerset County Sheriff’s deputy in April, police “beat and pummeled him to the point of causing him to defecate himself,” his lawyer claims.
Fear of future “beatings” and the effects of opioid withdrawal are what led John D. Williams to make an apparent confession to shooting Cpl. Eugene Cole, his lawyer wrote in a request that the statement not be allowed as evidence in his murder trial.
In June, Williams, 29, pleaded not guilty to killing Cole, who was the first Maine law enforcement officer shot dead in the line of duty in nearly three decades. Williams was arrested in late April after a manhunt that saw some 200 members of federal, state and local law enforcement scouring a rural portion of central Maine for four days.
After his arrest, Williams told police he “eliminated” Cole because he was mad at the deputy for arresting his fiancee a few days earlier, according to an affidavit filed by state prosecutors.
But Williams’ lawyer, Verne Paradie, is now arguing that this and other statements are inadmissible as evidence because they were obtained through “brutal physical force” and “coercive tactics.”
On April 28, police from several agencies arrested Williams in a heavily wooded area fewer than 5 miles from the Norridgewock home that Cole’s body was found outside of in the early hours of April 25.
Williams put up “zero resistance” but was nonetheless kicked in the head and face “causing severe bruising,” Paradie wrote, contrasting the official account of the arrest.
Maine State Police spokesman Stephen McCausland said Thursday that he has “no response” to these allegations. In May, he told the Bangor Daily News that Williams was injured while putting up “limited resistance” to police but did not offer specifics of what happened.
Williams was arrested by state and Fairfield police officers along with members of the FBI and Maine Warden Service. Representatives of the FBI and Warden Service declined to comment. Fairfield Chief Thomas Gould did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Within hours of Williams’ arrest, a photo appeared on social media and in some news outlets showing him shirtless on the ground with his left eye swelling and an officer’s fist holding his hair back for the camera. Police confirmed the photo was authentic at the time, but McCausland later said it was never meant to be released publicly.
In the motion to suppress filed Aug. 17, Paradie characterized the photograph as displaying his client “like a game trophy.” The Lewiston lawyer said that by the time detectives arrived, Williams was “convinced that he would continue to be beaten and traumatized by overzealous police officers.”
While answering questions, Williams “sincerely believed that his cooperation would avoid further beatings at the hands of officers,” Paradie wrote.
This belief combined with the effects of opioid withdrawal and sleep deprivation mean Williams’ statements to detectives were “not voluntary under Maine and federal law,” Paradie claimed in asking the court to suppress “any statements” made after his arrest.
Paradie and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese, who is prosecuting Williams’ case, did not immediately respond to a requests for comment.
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Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated when John D. Williams pleaded not guilty to killing Cpl. Eugene Cole.