Prosecutorial Misconduct in Maine Has Existed For Decades: Part 2

Prosecutorial Misconduct in Maine Has Existed For Decades: Part 2
October 30
21:14 2017

Maine Prosecutors Defending Mary Kellett’s Actions:

Both before and after Mary Kellett’s sanctions, many Maine prosecutors made public statements in support of her conduct, often downplaying it as merely part of the job description. Former co-worker of Mary Kellett, Assistant District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh when asked about the cycle of misconduct in that DA’s office doubled down stating there wasn’t an issue, and that it was really law enforcement’s fault for failing to turn over exculpatory evidence.  ADA Paul Cavanaugh is now a defendant in a Federal Civil Rights lawsuit for statements he made in the linked video, including publically defaming and shaming Vladek Filler while his post conviction review was pending.

While campaigning for District Attorney in the 2014 election, after Carletta Bassano chose to retire instead of facing public scrutiny, Assistant District Attorney William Entwisle praised the work of the District Attorney’s office and that of Mary Kellett’s record in a public debate. I had made it my mission to attend all the debates, asking questions to candidates (which were often censored by the debate moderators), and educating the citizens of Hancock and Washington Counties as to the culture of misconduct in that DA’s office. Come election day, the citizens spoke, electing newcomer, Matt Foster as their next District Attorney. To congratulate Mr. Foster, I gave him something to help clean up the office (picture below), and Kellett, Cavanaugh, and Entisle were given their walking papers.

In Penobscot County, District Attorney Christopher Almy also downplayed Kellett’s actions going even so far as to say “She’s one of those prosecutors that is willing to try cases some of us shy away from,” and “I admire her for that.”  Do you admire her prosecutorial misconduct too, Mr. Almy?

The Case of Clarence Cote:

Before I discuss the Clarence Cote case, I need to make a disclaimer. Clarence Cote was accused of the gross sexual assault of an 8 year old girl. I do not condone abuse or defend Clarence Cote from the allegations. There is no way for me to know whether it happened or didn’t happen. All I can really do is critique how the case was handled, the timing of the case, and how the media portrayed him. What I will say, however, is that I have read all the court files for this case, interviewed several people involved, and did my own investigation. This is what I found:

      This man was convicted before he even stood trial and due process was violated.

The sexual assault incident allegedly took place in 1990 when the alleged victim was roughly 8 years old. Clarence Cote was the legal Uncle of the alleged victim, Tina Marie Dionne, but there were also speculation that he was her biological father because he was having an affair with his brother’s wife at the time. According to Clarence Cote, when he decided to break off their relationship, that’s when things got ugly and Tina’s mother started making threats. According to the family, Clarence Cote had a significant other who was living with him at the time of the alleged incident. To be clear, the initial alleged incident involved a molestation (not involving penetration) of Tina in Cote’s truck and it wasn’t even reported until Tina was 12 years old when she disclosed the incident to State Police. This was long after Clarence Cote left Maine because he was tired of the conflict between Tina’s mother, his brother, and his girlfriend.

Based upon documents, Clarence and Tina remained in contact for several years after he left Maine. But according the Portland Press Herald article cited above, Penobscot County District Attorney Christopher Almy stated that Clarence Cote only left the State of Maine when he learned he was being investigated and was on the run for 20+ years. If DA Almy’s statement was accurately reported by the Press Herald, DA Almy may have engaged in potential jury tampering for making public statements that were not supported by record and for the purpose of persuading public opinion. As a prosecutor, Almy is not permitted to make such statements, which could also be interpreted as “fraud upon the court.” Leading expert on prosecutorial misconduct, Bennett Gershman, says that prosecutors have a duty of silence  but rarely do because of the symbiotic relationship they have with the media. Prosecutors also have a duty to convict the guilty and protect the innocent but when there is an agenda to prosecute everyone (primarily men) and use media to influence the jury pool, innocent defendants frequently end up in jail.

In Maine,  District Attorneys run for election every 4 years, and this case coincided with the same election cycle that saw DA Bassano and her cohorts get thrown out on their collective asses in Hancock and Washington Counties. But could this court case have been a ploy to get DA Almy out in the public eye to justify his re-election? I will discuss that later.

So what took place?

It wasn’t until 2012 that Clarence Cote was arrested in Nebraska when Falls City Police Chief , John Caverzagie (now retired), acted on the arrest warrant when Mr. Cote was involved in a minor car accident. According to a conversation I had with Caverzagie, he called the Penobscot County DA’s office about the warrant and was told to release Cote because they were not going to pursue the case due to insufficient evidence. Clarence was later released by Falls City police that same day. However, a few month later, after Maine State Police told Tina about the incident, they gave her the option of whether to revive the case or not. She did, and Cote was then arrested again by the local Sheriff’s office and extradited to Maine.

Knowing that Clarence was on his way back to Maine after two decades, Tina started lobbying her story with the local media. But her narrative posted on WABI TV5’s Facebook page is grossly inaccurate. The story both Tina and DA Christopher Almy told is that it took Maine 22 years to track him down. But Tina’s family knew where he had been for many years after he left Maine. In an interview with Clarence’s daughter, Susan Shoemaker, she told me she personally provided them with the information shortly after he left Maine for Arizona. But Susan Shoemaker was not permitted to testify to that fact in court in an effort to discredit Ms. Dionne because Mr. Cote’s defense attorney (Stephen Smith) wouldn’t allow her to be a witness. In fact after reading the trial records, my opinion is that Stephen Smith did not do his due diligence representing Mr. Cote.

Based upon former Police Chief John Caverzagie’s account, which is contrary to Ms. Dionne’s narrative, it was because the Penobscot County DA’s office wanted to drop the case, not because of Mr. Cote’s health, that he was released from their custody.

During the trial, according to the trial transcripts, Ms. Tina Marie Dionne, changed her initial story that she disclosed when she was 12 years old from molestation to FULL ANAL RAPE. Even though the allegation completely changed on the witness stand, the trial still proceeded and Mr. Cote was later convicted without evidence or witnesses. It was based on the sole inconsistent testimony of the alleged victim on an incident that allegedly took place 22 years prior when she was merely 8 years old, and a police summary from that initial statement.

I can not imagine how Ms. Dionne didn’t require medical attention at 8 years old if she was indeed raped anally by Mr. Cote. There would have been tearing, there would be blood, and there would be internal trauma. Where was the evidence of that and why wasn’t his attorney, Stephen Smith, calling for a continuance to be able to collect evidence to rebut the new allegations?

I ended up calling John Caverzagie back letting him know that Clarence Cote had been convicted. I was then told that “exculpatory evidence” existed in Mr. Cote’s file that would have helped his case and all that evidence was turned over to their county prosecutor’s office. Mr. Caverzagie also stated that he would have testified on Mr. Cote’s behalf but was never contacted. This led me further down the rabbit hole so I called the County Prosecutor, Zach Blackmon, who confirmed that exculpatory evidence existed and his office  TURNED IT OVER TO THE PENOBSCOT COUNTY DA’s OFFICE. So where did it go? Did it grow legs and walk away?

Suspecting that prosecutorial misconduct had happened again, I emailed Stephen Smith about my investigation. I told him about the existence of the exculpatory evidence, the willingness of Susan Shoemaker to act as a rebuttal witness to discredit Tina Dionne, and that he could have used funds from the Indigent Legal Services office to acquire the services of an expert witness to talk about false memory syndrome because it was clear Ms. Dionne kept changing her story. Stephen Smith’s response was short and to the point…. that he didn’t want to be bothered by my investigation or the possibility of prosecutorial misconduct in this case stating that he needed to focus on the appeal. However, when new evidence comes to light that could prove the innocence of the defendant, it is generally allowed in the appeal briefs. But it never happened and Mr. Cote lost his appeal.

Five months before the election, WABI Tv5 ran a two part reportage encouraging women to come forward with sex crimes from their childhood so that they could actively prosecute every case. Even if the case is 30 years old, without evidence, without witnesses, and essentially without any shred of credibility. The reportage focused on the Clarence Cote case, among others, and Penobscot District Attorney Chris Almy gave several statements. I wish the video was still active so you can see it but it appears it has been pulled down by WABI TV but the link to the article is still active.  In my opinion, it was nothing more than a politically motivated video which helped many of the District Attorneys who are vocal on Domestic Violence to get re-elected. With all of the recent #metoo hysteria 1 year before we vote in the next election, I wonder what kind of stunt the media will pull to get us fearing the Domestic Violence demon again.


Back to Part 1: Prosecutorial Misconduct in Maine

(continued to Part 3: The Sanborn Case)



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Brian Danielson

Brian Danielson

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