A jury could not reach a verdict on 20 of 22 charges of sex and drug crimes against Lincoln County Sheriff’s Deputy Kenneth L. Hatch III after his week-long trial. The jury acquitted Hatch of the other two charges Monday, Nov. 20.
Hatch, 47, of Whitefield, remains under indictment on the other 20 charges and remains on leave without pay from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. The Maine Attorney General’s Office has yet to say whether it will bring the case to trial again.
He now faces two counts of class B unlawful sexual contact, 10 counts of class C sexual abuse of minors, seven counts of class C aggravated furnishing in schedule Z drugs (marijuana), and one count of class C unlawful sexual contact, all felonies.
The jury found Hatch not guilty on one count each of sexual abuse and furnishing drugs.
The charges stem from accusations by three women of abuse when they were 14 and 15, according to court documents. One woman said the alleged abuse started when she was 6. The drug charges stem from one woman’s accusation that Hatch would give her marijuana, including an evidence bag of marijuana on one occasion, in exchange for sex.
Hatch took the stand in his own defense Thursday, Nov. 16, telling jurors he never had sex with any of the girls, nor provided marijuana to them.
The trial started Nov. 13, with two women testifying that Hatch sexually abused them when they were 14 and 15, often during “ride-alongs.” Both said he provided them with alcohol and marijuana.
The third witness, now 19, testified Nov. 14, saying Hatch first abused her when she was 6. Then, when she was 14 and 15, she said he would give her marijuana and liquor if she would have sex with him, often in the back of his cruiser.
The three girls 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 one of his accusers, 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 she had taken out a protection-from-abuse order on him.
Responding to Elliott’s questions about specific dates in one of the women’s testimony, Hatch said he couldn’t have been patrolling on a particular road on a specific date, as she had testified, because it wasn’t plowed in the winter.
He said 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 abused her later in the day – but Hatch said he wore a suit and tie, not a uniform, as she said.
Just after 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Elliott asked Hatch to look at the jury as Elliott asked him if he had ever “sexually touched or had sex with” each of his accusers, or given them marijuana.
To each question, he answered no.
Hatch also responded to a question from Elliott about a part of his anatomy – something Elliott implied the accusers 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 he did not.
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 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.
The jury began deliberating at midday Friday and went home just after 5:30 p.m. They arrived back at the Capital Judicial Center at 8:30 a.m. Monday and immediately began deliberating.
They delivered their verdict less than three hours later.
Hatch, through his attorney, Richard Elliott, declined to comment following the verdict, but Elliott said Hatch is “extremely relieved.”
“He’d like to have seen all ‘not guilty,’ but we live to fight another day,” Elliott said. He said he’s not sure why the jury found Hatch not guilty of those two counts in particular, but speculated that the jury had questions about the dates the crimes occurred.
“I’m extremely pleased with the jury,” Elliott said. “Obviously they considered it long and hard. I think any time there’s a hung jury, it means they (did).”
Elliott said he was unsure of Hatch’s status with the sheriff’s office, but since Hatch was out on disability when he was charged, that would likely continue.
“I will say, we were a little disappointed in (the) Lincoln County (Sheriff’s Office’s) attitude throughout this whole thing,” he said. “I think they were waiting to see if he was convicted before they made any decisions.”
Lincoln County Sheriff Todd Brackett said Monday afternoon that Hatch would continue on unpaid leave pending the outcome of the case. Brackett said an internal investigation of Hatch is complete, but the “personnel matter” is not.
“I think this all started when one of the victims indicated Ken was the father of her child,” Elliott said. “We hoped they would ask for a DNA test, because he knew he wasn’t the father because he never had sex with her. I think it was three friends that basically banded together.”
Hatch’s sister, Teresa Potter, who sat through the entire trial with Hatch’s wife, wept with relief as she left the courtroom.
“It’s been a year and a half of not knowing,” she said. “I’m glad he’s coming home.”
Potter said her three young daughters told her, “Bring my uncle home.”
“I do everything to protect them,” Potter said. “If he was guilty, I wouldn’t let them near him, but he wouldn’t do this.”
Assistant Attorney General John Risler, who prosecuted the case, said he would consult with the three women and the head of the attorney general’s criminal division to determine whether or not to re-try the remaining counts.
“I’m disappointed we weren’t able to secure a verdict, but I’m proud of these young ladies,” he said of the women, who all testified.
Risler said he’s not sure why the jury found Hatch not guilty on those particular counts, which were among the 17 counts that involved one then-14-year-old girl.
“Just because it happened a long time ago doesn’t mean it didn’t happen,” he said. “Those are cases we want to take seriously.”
A conference in the case is scheduled for Dec. 22.