AUGUSTA — Retired Maine State Police Trooper Mark Sawyer has lost his right to be a law enforcement officer in Maine.
An appeals panel of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy has concluded Sawyer likely assaulted his wife at their Oakland home in March 2009 and so the panel revoked his certification.
A charge of domestic assault lodged against Sawyer in connection with that incident was dismissed by the district attorney after his wife, Michelle, recanted her testimony that he had lifted her up, beat her head against a kitchen cabinet and thrown her to the floor, breaking her collarbone.
However, the Maine Criminal Justice Academy Board of Trustees investigated and opted during a meeting Tuesday to revoke his certification.
Sawyer, formerly of Oakland and now of Belgrade, contested the decision. The three-member panel ruled against him after five days of hearings that spanned several months.
William Fisher, an assistant attorney general who represented the academy trustees, argued that Michelle Sawyer told the truth initially when she reported the assault, but lied afterward to protect her husband, his job and their family.
Sawyer was a sergeant with the commercial vehicle unit of the Maine State Police when he was arrested by Oakland police. His wife reported the assault as she was being treated at a hospital on March 16, 2009.
She recanted the allegations in a formal statement presented two days later to the Oakland Police Department and said the injury had actually happened when she slipped in the kitchen.
Sawyer, who had been a state trooper for 23 years, retired shortly after he was charged.
Fisher, in a closing argument, told the panel that the evidence presented at the hearing supports a finding that Sawyer assaulted his wife and should therefore lose his certificate of eligibility.
“The people of Maine deserve more from those entrusted with the honor of enforcing our laws,” Fisher told them.
Michelle Sawyer testified at the hearing that her husband never hit her. She said the Sawyers’ marriage was under stress at the time, and she was working nights as a nurse at the veterans hospital at Togus while her husband worked days. The two would meet in Augusta to exchange their daughter.
“We lived in the same house and really, really didn’t talk to each other,” she said. They have since reconciled, she said.
Michelle Sawyer said she was sleep-deprived and involved with another man she had met at work and wanted a divorce. She said she drove to the man’s home in Chelsea after being injured and he drove her to the hospital.
Sawyer said she did not want law enforcement notified, and when an officer arrived she refused to write a statement about the assault and refused to have pictures taken of her injuries.
“I wrote a couple of words,” she said. “I said, ‘My head is spinning; I can’t do it.'”
Attorney William McKinley, who represented Sawyer at the appeals hearing on behalf of the Maine State Troopers Association, was in a meeting Wednesday afternoon and couldn’t be reached for comment.
Fisher said the panel — Geoffrey Rushlau, a district attorney in Knox, Sagadahoc, Lincoln and Waldo counties; Col. Joel Wilkinson of the Maine Warden Service and Gary LaPlante of the Department of Corrections — is expected to issue the opinion in writing in about a month. Sawyer then has 30 days to appeal.
“In this case, Mr. Sawyer managed to avoid a criminal prosecution, but the underlying conduct was the basis for law enforcement certificate revocation,” Fisher said.
Betty Adams — 621-5631