The trial of Lincoln County Sheriff’s Deputy Kenneth L. Hatch III on charges of sexual abuse of three underage girls, as well as giving drugs to two of those girls, is underway in Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta.
The trial started Monday, Nov. 13. Hatch, 47, of Whitefield, faces two counts of class B unlawful sexual contact, 11 counts of class C sexual abuse of minors, eight counts of class C aggravated furnishing in schedule Z drugs (marijuana), and one count of class C unlawful sexual contact, all felonies. He has pleaded not guilty to all 22 charges.
A class B crime carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. A class C crime carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
According to an affidavit by Maine Attorney General’s Office Detective Peter P. Lizanecz, one of the girls told investigators Hatch would give her marijuana, including an evidence bag of marijuana on one occasion, as well as alcohol, cigarettes, and money. The girl told investigators the abuse often occurred in Hatch’s cruiser while he was on duty.
Two of the girls were 14 or 15 years old at the time of the alleged abuse, according to court documents. The alleged abuse of the third girl started when she was 6 and continued when she was 14 and 15.
Despite objections by Hatch’s attorney, Richard Elliott, Maine Superior Court Justice William R. Stokes transferred the case to Kennebec County Superior Court after the prosecution objected to “the perception of and potential impact on the alleged victims of having to attend court where the defendant’s former colleagues are responsible for court security.”
Furthermore, the prosecution raised questions about the ability to seat a jury and said “the Wiscasset courthouse is not equipped to accommodate such a large jury pool.”
A jury was seated Wednesday, Nov. 8 in Augusta.
Hatch and Elliott both told Stokes on Wednesday that no plea agreement has been discussed because Hatch is not interested in a plea.
Stokes granted a motion by Elliott to sever five of the charges, which allege crimes against two victims, from the other 17 charges, which allege crimes against a third victim, because Elliott said Hatch might testify on the former, but not the latter. Stokes’ ruling would have still allowed the victim in those 17 charges to testify about what allegedly happened in Hatch’s cruiser, so Elliott withdrew the motion.
The prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General John Risler, told jurors Monday in his opening statement that the trial is about trust — “the trust we put in law enforcement … and the trust of a child not to be abused.”
“What the evidence in this case will show is that the defendant was a decorated deputy by day and a different person after dark,” Risler told the jury Monday morning. “He used his position of trust as a deputy … as a friend, for his own personal benefit, in seeking sexual gratification from children and underaged teenaged girls.”
Risler said the victims were not “perfect.”
“One was a young lady whose father couldn’t control her,” he said. “Another one developed a serious drug problem. One young lady, I will tell you right now, is sexually promiscuous and she self-medicates with alcohol. None of these things make them less of a victim. If anything, that shows why they were picked by the defendant to be abused.”
Elliott, in turn, referred to the prosecution as “this state machine, churning out evidence.”
He asked the jurors – seven men and eight women – to “assess the credibility” and “the actual look” of the victims when they testify.
Elliott said each of the three alleged victims “has a reason to be up there testifying,” adding that one witness had been investigated by Hatch for alleged conspiracy in a different case.
“Ken Hatch did not do this. Ken Hatch is going to tell you he did not do this,” Elliott said. “My job is to tell you that, even if you believe the state on some of these allegations,” they couldn’t have occurred within the timeline alleged.
Elliott said Hatch would testify in his own defense.
The first witness, now 30 years old, said she was 14 when she began spending time at Hatch’s Whitefield home, where he lived with his wife and two children. She said she and other teens rode all-terrain vehicles and played cribbage there, and that she at times spent as many as five nights per week there.
But she said Hatch made inappropriate comments about her body and would touch her “anywhere.” She said Hatch touched her breasts in the presence of his wife, provided her Bacardi Limon and other liquor, and bought her items that included a dress for a school dance.
She told Risler she rode with Hatch when he was on patrol and she had a photo she took of Hatch while riding in the back of his cruiser with her best friend.
The alleged victim cried as she described three encounters with Hatch, once while in his cruiser, while he wore his brown deputy’s uniform; and once in Hatch’s bedroom, when his family was at a soccer game.
After that, she said, “I didn’t want to be there anymore.”
On Tuesday, a second victim told the jury Hatch was her “best friend” but ultimately betrayed her trust. One charge alleges that Hatch abused the woman who testified Tuesday, who is now 19 years old, when she was only 6.
“Growing up, we were pretty close,” the woman said of Hatch, who babysat for her and her younger brother. She said her family spent time at his home with his family. The summer after she started eighth grade, she began patrolling with him in his cruiser and going fishing and hunting “for deer and bunnies and turkeys.”
The woman said that one night when she was 6, as she and her younger brother lay in bed with Hatch and his wife watching movies, Hatch moved her hand to touch him inappropriately. She told Risler that she remembers how old she was mostly because she remembers turning away from Hatch and hugging her little brother and “thinking how small he was compared to me.”
She acknowledged that she had a troubled adolescence, having been expelled from Cony High School and then Gardiner Area High School for alcohol and marijuana use. She described a number of occasions after she turned 14 when Hatch allegedly agreed to give her marijuana – at one point directly from a police evidence bag – or buy her liquor if she’d have sex with him.
She described the first time they allegedly had sex in the back of his cruiser, and said that afterward, “I threw up in my mouth.” She said they usually had sex in the cruiser on Crocker Road, near Hatch’s home.
She said the two of them had sex about 10 times, although she estimated she went on 100 “ride-alongs” with him.
Elliott, the defense attorney, cross-examined the victim about discrepancies in the details of what she initially told investigators and the grand jury, and what she told Risler on the stand Tuesday morning.
“Why is it your statements keep changing, and they change the closer you get to the trial?” Elliott said.
“Because I was coming to the police about something huge that I was dealing with, so I was a little bit emotionally unstable,” she said, adding later, “It’s been about six years since that happened.”
“So your memory is getting better as time goes on?” Elliott said.
“In some places,” she said.
“And it’s getting better in places that help convict Ken Hatch,” he said, asking if it was true that she told the state she also had sex with another person “when she was too young,” but didn’t want that person prosecuted.
“So you’re pushing to get this man convicted?” Elliott said of Hatch.
“Absolutely,” she said.
Elliott asked the alleged victim why, if she threw up in her mouth and “didn’t like it” when they had sex, did it happen at least nine more times, and why did she continue the ride-alongs. He said she was jealous that, after she became a mother, she was no longer able to spend time with Hatch, though her younger brother continued to do so.
“Because of the fact that he is … my best friend and I spent every day with him, no matter what we were doing,” she said.
Hatch was placed on paid administrative leave after his arrest in June, but his status was changed to unpaid leave after a Knox County grand jury indicted him Aug. 9, 2016.
Hatch joined the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office in June 1999. He was promoted to sergeant in August 2002 and transferred to the Criminal Investigative Division in November 2002, where he assumed the rank of detective sergeant.
He was demoted to patrol deputy in September 2012, after several weeks on leave. Agency documents reference an investigation by the Maine Attorney General’s Office, though they do not disclose the subject.
Hatch is a graduate of Whitefield Elementary School and a 1988 graduate of Gardiner Area High School. He is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve who served in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. Before coming to Lincoln County, he worked for Kennebec County as a dispatcher, corrections officer, and part-time deputy.