2015-06-19 / Community

DA won’t take alleged abuse case

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD – Attorney Walter McKee, who represents Matt Lauzon, responded last week to an offer by Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson to review Lauzon’s case for possible prosecution – but with conditions.

“I’ve never seen it before,” McKee said of the conditions Anderson asked Lauzon to accept in exchange for reviewing the case.

“A victim of a crime is entitled to have a prosecutor review what happened and make a decision whether to prosecute. To condition that review, let alone prosecution – I was dumbfounded.”

Lauzon, who now lives in Boston, alleges former Biddeford police sergeant Stephen Dodd and resident Michael Mckeown sexually abused him when he was a child in Biddeford.

Lauzon said he filed a complaint with the Maine State Police in October and was contacted by a Biddeford Police investigator later that month. Police Chief Roger Beaupre confirmed to the Courier in March that the allegations had been forwarded to the Attorney General’s Office, which had investigated similar claims against Dodd in 2002.

Allegations of crimes that took place in York County would generally be reviewed by the office of the York County district attorney, McKee said. However, since Lauzon’s allegations involve a police officer in a department that the district attorney’s office works with, McKee said the district attorney may want to avoid a conflict by turning the case over to another district attorney.

York County District Attorney Kathryn Slattery did not respond to requests for comment before the Courier’s deadline.

“The conflict is that this would be a prosecution of a former police officer who worked in a department that the district attorney’s office has to work with every day,” McKee said. “Though not a technical conflict of interest, it is certainly a practical one, and no district attorney’s office would ever handle a case under these circumstances.”

But Anderson said she didn’t know why Slattery didn’t want to review Lauzon’s case in York County where the alleged crimes occurred.

“(The Cumberland County) office handles criminal complaints against officers,” Anderson said. “We don’t ‘conflict’ that out.”

McKee said he did find it unusual for Anderson to request that Lauzon agree to certain conditions in order for the Cumberland County office to review his case. According to McKee, Anderson wanted Lauzon to submit all his investigative materials, release medical and psychological records, and waive his rights for any report or conclusion on his allegations to remain confidential.

“The reasoning behind the conditions was there had been so much information generated publicly and apparently Mr. Lauzon is a frequent Facebook user,” Anderson said, “and it’s sort of an environment that would render it very difficult for us to impartially review the case and then also being considered afterward that we had impartially reviewed the case.”

Anderson said if her office had taken over the case, she would have wanted all the information available that would help her to prosecute it, and would want the alleged victim to be confident, not suspicious, of the Cumberland County district attorney’s ability to review the case and prosecute if necessary.

“I know there are various suspicions,” Anderson said. “If we reviewed the case and said we couldn’t prosecute, then I would be tarred with the same brush … I wanted an agreement from them up front that basically said, ‘Yes, I trust you to do this.’ It shouldn’t be a ‘gotcha.’”

Anderson said the public nature of the case has made everybody a target of suspicion and, as an example pointed to Lauzon posting an attack against her conditions hours after McKee released his response.

On his blog titled, “Tall Guy from Maine,” at http://mattlauzon.tumblr.com, Lauzon wrote that Anderson had called him with an investigator from the Attorney General’s Office also on the line, offering to review the case. Anderson confirmed that the investigator was Detective Michael Pulire.

“In exchange, she requested I waive my rights normally entitled to a victim,” Lauzon wrote. “After talking to multiple experts, I could not find a single one that had ever seen such a request presented to a victim.”

Anderson said the conditions are not unusual, and that many complainants release their medical records and agree to other terms.

McKee said Slattery is doing the right thing to request Lauzon’s case be reviewed outside of York County, but Anderson’s conditions to review the case in Cumberland County are unprecedented.

“Here, (Slattery) very correctly said somebody else needs to take a look at this,” McKee said. “The very typical part that happened here was it was removed from York County. What is atypical is that the receiving agency tacked on a bunch of conditions.”

Anderson said, “I think what’s unusual is the behavior of the defense … I don’t think that (the case is) public makes it difficult. What we need to do is get all the information. Apparently McKee has information that we’re not privy to. He’s claiming that he has all this information against people, alleging wrongdoing, and we want to see what that is.”

In his response to Anderson’s conditions, McKee wrote, “I do not believe (Lauzon) can – or should have to – agree to certain terms for the case against his perpetrators to be reviewed and prosecuted … He was sexually assaulted by two men. He has recounted the abuse in extensive detail to an Attorney General’s Office investigator already. He has been adamant in a very public way, with no benefit to himself, that this all happened. This is a sexual assault case that should be prosecuted just like the hundreds of other serious sexual assault cases your office has prosecuted over the years.”

“Again, this is an unusual case because it’s being aired in public and all these accusations are being made,” Anderson said. “If there’s going to be an objective look at it by my office, I think the public should know what the investigation and analysis determined.”

In response to Anderson’s request that Lauzon permit the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office to issue a report with details, McKee wrote, “Matt is not willing to waive this important (confidentiality) protection, should not be required to as a precondition and I am not even sure it would be legal to do so.”

Anderson said she wanted to get Lauzon’s consent up front to release any report about a review, but even without his consent, she would be legally entitled to release information.

“Looking back, I don’t need his consent, but I wanted his consent up front to be fair,” Anderson said. “The protection goes to the person accused. I don’t really need Lauzon’s permission, but because this has been so publicly aired...”

McKee responded similarly to Anderson’s request for medical and psychological records.

“This is confidential information. Victims aren’t required to give up important privileges to highly sensitive information so that a prosecution can go forward,” said McKee. “This information would not address any element of the offense.”

“A medical release is very common,”Anderson said. “A medical release we get in every case involving a victim and to corroborate facts.”

McKee said he thought it was “especially odd” for Anderson to ask for McKee’s private investigative records. McKee has been conducting a private investigation into whether information about ongoing sexual abuse by at least two former police officers was overlooked by the Biddeford Police Department or Attorney General’s Office.

“We’re investigating separately other issues, investigating a far broader scope, none of which has relevance (to allegations of abuse by Dodd and Mckeown),” McKee said. “It’s a very odd request.”

In his letter to Anderson, McKee wrote, “These materials relate to issues well beyond just the abuse itself, but also pertain to the knowledge of the Biddeford Police Chief and Deputy Chief about Officer Dodd before Matt and others were molested. I don’t see how these would be of any relevance to a criminal prosecution of Dodd and they certainly wouldn’t relate to any prosecution of Mr. McKeown … I can’t imagine that there is anything that we have that would bear on a criminal case against Dodd and McKeown and it makes me wonder why the AG’s Office is even asking for this in the first place. I’ve never had a law enforcement agency look to the victim for investigation information.”

McKee said if Pulire – the investigator from the Attorney General’s Office who has been investigating Lauzon’s claims – wanted to share information from his investigation, then McKee would reconsider sharing information from his as well.

“Since they’re playing things close to the vest, well, us too,” McKee said.

McKee said his office has gathered enough information through his private investigation to make him certain a civil suit will be forthcoming, but could not say when it will be filed.

Anderson said her office would have wanted all the information available to help prosecute Lauzon’s case.

“I’m not going to play hide the ball,” Anderson said. “If you have information about alleged crimes, we would need to know about it. If there was anything they wanted us to review, we’d need to identify what it was beforehand. We don’t want a claim afterwards, ‘Oh, they did a lousy job.’”

In his blog, Lauzon asked others to look at things through the “lens of the victim.”

“In the investigative materials, what you have are allegations and information that include reason for you to believe that there has likely been wrongdoing by both the BPD and AG’s office,” Lauzon wrote. “Would you hand it over and waive your rights as a citizen in exchange for the district attorney considering your case? Or would you keep fighting to make sure that either the city, state or federal government takes steps to make sure an independent investigation is done?”

McKee concluded his response to Anderson, writing, “It is up to you to either accept the case for review, as it would be in the usual course, or send it back to the York County DA to find someone else to handle it. I really don’t think Matt should be in the middle of that.”

“Maybe another prosecutor will do it without insisting on conditions,” Anderson said, “but it’s difficult to take on a case if the victim and attorney don’t trust you.”

“I’m not taking it,” she added. “I feel like I’m being asked to look at it with one hand behind my back.”

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