A Rockland police officer resigned last month after the district attorney said his office wouldn’t be able to prosecute cases involving the officer because of perceived credibility concerns.
In an Aug. 29 letter to Rockland Deputy Police Chief Chris Young, District Attorney Jonathan Liberman expressed concerns about officer Christopher Spear based on testimony Spear gave during a motion-to-suppress hearing in a case involving a substitute teacher at Medomak Valley High School who was accused of exchanging sexual photos with a student.
At the time of the incident, Spear was the Waldoboro Police Department’s resource officer at Medomak Valley High School, a post he held for about five years before joining the Rockland Police Department.
Spear was an officer with the Rockland Police Department for less than two months before he resigned Sept. 24, following two weeks of requested unpaid leave, according to Young.
Spear said the testimony he gave during the court hearing in January 2017 was truthful and that he believes the district attorney’s office would have pleaded down the case regardless of his testimony.
“I think it’s a shame that there is no recourse [for me to take], that criminals have more of a due process than a law enforcement officer being accused of this,” Spear said Monday. “I’ve just become the scapegoat for this particular case.”
William Bourget, the substitute teacher, pleaded guilty last month to one count of misdemeanor assault, as part of a plea agreement.
In his letter to Young, Liberman said that Spear did not answer truthfully when asked by Assistant District Attorney Katie Dakers if he had any reason to believe that the victim and a witness — both juveniles — were lying. A transcript of the testimony included with the letter states that Spear responded, “no.”
Justice Daniel Billings, who presided over the hearing, then followed up by asking if Spear had any prior dealings with the victim or the witness, to which Spear responded, “no.” He reportedly continued to say it was his first time meeting the witness, then Billings followed up with another question.
The defense’s motion to suppress the cellphone seized by Spear was denied after this hearing.
In August, while Liberman was preparing to take this case to trial, he found an April 2017 case for possession of marijuana against the victim, which was later dismissed. In Spear’s report on the marijuana charge, Spear wrote that he had numerous interactions with the individual “regarding his deceptive behavior,” according to Liberman’s letter.
When following up with Spear about this discovery, Liberman wrote that he learned Spear had issues with the victim’s “deceptive nature since he first knew him,” predating the 2016 Bourget case.
Spear maintained that he told both Dakers and a Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office detective investigating the case about his prior knowledge of the victim.
In his letter, Liberman said, “this has a catastrophic impact on the Bourget case, and resulted in us significantly compromising its settlement.”
Spear said the testimony he gave regarding his answer to Dakers was truthful and framed in the perspective of the whether or not he had reason to believe the victim was lying about the allegations at hand. He said Billings interrupted him several times while he was answering if he had prior knowledge of the victim and the witness, and that Dakers never returned to the line of questioning.
Spear’s former attorney, Michael Cunniff, sent a letter to Liberman asking him to rescind the letter he sent to Young raising the credibility concerns, adding that the letter “effectively ended Officer Spear’s career in law enforcement.”
Cunniff also wrote that prior to being hired by the Rockland Police Department, Spear passed a polygraph test in which he was asked if he had ever been untruthful when providing testimony in court.
A letter written about the credibility concerns of a law enforcement officer is known as giglio material. As district attorney, Liberman said he had a responsibility to disclose this type of information.
“I was very disappointed when I discovered these credibility issues, but I cannot compromise the ethics or the integrity of my office,” Liberman wrote in an email to the Bangor Daily News.
Spear said since Liberman has already issued the letter, he has no course of action to take unless the letter was rescinded. Given that Liberman is the district attorney for Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox and Waldo counties, Spear would not be able to work as a law enforcement officer in that region.
Liberman is up for re-election in November and is being challenged by Natasha Irving of Waldoboro.
Spear said he has filed complaints about Dakers and Liberman with the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar, which did not respond to a request for confirmation Monday evening.
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