A former Maine State Police chief who is accused of sexually assaulting a 4-year-old relative pleaded not guilty Wednesday to two felony charges.

Andrew Demers Jr., 73, of New Gloucester was charged with unlawful sexual contact when he was arrested on March 17. He was indicted by a Cumberland County grand jury last week on a second, more serious charge, of gross sexual assault.

Demers did not speak during Wednesday’s brief hearing at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland. He appeared with his attorney, Walter McKee, who entered the pleas to both charges on Demers’ behalf.

Justice John O’Neil allowed Demers to remain free on the $5,000 bail he posted after his arrest, and imposed no new conditions.

McKee said he was surprised that the District Attorney’s Office acted so quickly to present its case to a grand jury. He said that is unusual, especially since he has not been provided paperwork documenting the state’s case against Demers.

“They were quick to indict, but a little slow with discovery,” McKee said.

Sheriff Kevin Joyce has said that Demers admitted to assaulting the child multiple times, but McKee said he has not seen a written confession.

McKee said his client’s case is next scheduled for a judicial conference on June 24, when the parties will begin to determine whether the charges can be resolved by negotiation or at trial.

If Demers is convicted, he will face as much as 30 years in prison for gross sexual assault, a Class A felony. The charge of unlawful sexual contact is a Class B felony, punishable by as much as 10 years in prison.

The indictment announced Friday by the District Attorney’s Office included no new information, other than that the offenses allegedly occurred in the period from Feb. 14 to March 14. Neither McKee nor the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Michael Madigan, filed any new documents Wednesday.

State police got a tip about the alleged crimes on March 10 and referred it to District Attorney Stephanie Anderson, who asked the sheriff’s office to investigate. The District Attorney’s Office and McKee arranged for Demers to turn himself in at the county jail.

Demers, named a Legendary Trooper in 2003, served 26 years with the state police and held the department’s top position from 1987 to 1993, when he retired. But his career wasn’t without controversy.

In 1991, he was criticized for appearing in a TV ad in support of widening the Maine Turnpike, the subject of a statewide referendum that fall. The state Attorney General’s Office determined there was nothing wrong with his appearance in the ad.

The next year, state police came under fire for failing to pursue allegations that the founder of the Cole Farms Restaurant in Gray had molested several boys in the 1970s.

After state police dismissed the allegations, saying they were too old, the accuser turned to the District Attorney’s Office, which charged Warren Cole with sexually molesting a young boy in 1986 and 1987. Cole was sent to prison in 1992.

State police were accused of failing to pursue the case because of their close relationship with Cole, who hosted dinners for troopers at his restaurant.

State police also were scrutinized for an incident in which a trooper shot a friend of his former wife a few months after he came close to killing himself with a shotgun. The trooper said his supervisors knew about his near-suicide. Demers wouldn’t say why he didn’t take the trooper off the job, citing confidentiality regarding personnel matters.

Also in 1992, a state trooper and Somerset County sheriff’s deputies were criticized for storming the cabin of a woman and shooting her to death after spending 10 minutes negotiating with her. Demers said there were no grounds for disciplining the officers.

Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

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