AUGUSTA — A Sidney man who has been held in jail or at the Riverview Psychiatric Center since his arrest in July 2012 on charges of raping a 4-year-old girl he was babysitting is seeking to get his bail reduced so he can get out of jail.
Eric Bard, who was indicted on 21 charges — including gross sexual assault, sexual exploitation of a minor and assault — based on incidents that allegedly took place from Dec. 1, 2011 to April 20, 2012, in Augusta, has been in custody for 21 months in lieu of $100,000 bail.
“He wants to go home,” his attorney, Ronald Bourget, told Justice Donald H. Marden on Tuesday during Bard’s arraignment in Kennebec County Superior Court. The request for a change in bail came after the judge entered pleas of not guilty and not criminally responsible on Bard’s behalf to 11 charges of sexual exploitation of a minor, seven charges of gross sexual assault, two charges of unlawful sexual contact and one charge of assault.
Marden had ruled last August, over defense attorneys’ objections, that Bard, now 24, was competent to enter pleas.
However, when the judge asked Tuesday whether he understood the charges against him, Bard turned to his attorney, Ronald Bourget and started to question him.
Bourget also asked that Marden reduce Bard’s bail from $100,000 to $25,000 cash with a condition that Bard be confined to his mother’s Sidney home with electronic monitoring to ensure compliance.
Marden said a bail hearing would be set and that he expected to hear testimony about Bard’s level of supervision. In the meantime, he said bail would remain at $100,000.
Bourget told the judge that Bard “has a history of intellectual, social and physical limitations.” Bourget told Marden that Bard completed high school “through special programs at Messalonskee,” a high school in Oakland.
Bard, who is 4-foot-10, wore an orange jail uniform and kept his head down and his face hidden by his long hair.
After the hearing, Bourget said Bard had weaknesses in speech and language. “He can’t get through even simple lists,” Bourget said. “He doesn’t have the capacity to generate and weigh alternatives, and he does not think in any abstract terms.”
Bard was evaluated by Dr. Ann LeBlanc, a psychologist who is the State Forensic Service director; and Bourget said her report indicated “he cannot follow even one step at a time of a simple reasoning process.”
LeBlanc attended Bard’s arraignment on Tuesday, but was not asked to testify.
Assistant Attorney General Paul Rucha is serving as prosecutor. Maeghan Maloney, district attorney in Kennebec and Somerset counties, said Rucha began work on the case in 2012 when he was an assistant district attorney and asked to continue with it.
“Someone who’s passionate is always going to do the best job,” Maloney said on Tuesday.
An affidavit filed with the court by Detective Christopher Tremblay, of the Maine State Police, says the investigation into Bard began in mid-May 2012 after a woman contacted police with concerns about a Craigslist ad in which a person said he was interested in giving young children baths. Bard later admitted having posted the ad, according to Tremblay. Bard reportedly told police on June 19 that there were six computers in his home, all of which could contain child pornography.
Police got a search warrant to examine a portable memory device that reportedly held pictures of a young girl with Bard. Bard allegedly identified the child and said he baby-sat for her. The girl’s mother said Bard often watched the girl in his home and the girl’s home while her mother worked.
The charges of sexual exploitation of a minor say Bard compelled or induced the girl “to engage in sexually explicit conduct” so he could photograph it.