AUGUSTA — A man accused of gross sexual assault of an 11-year-old girl told a state police detective he knew what he had done was wrong, according to a taped interview played during a court proceeding Thursday.
Sitting alone in the front passenger seat of an unmarked cruiser, Travis Gerrier, who was 21 at the time, knew his words were being recorded.
First he castigates himself.
“Part of me knows it’s wrong,” he said.
Then he speaks directly to the 11-year-old girl he is accused of sexually assaulting in a portable outhouse in a parking lot in North Belgrade. “If you hear this tape, I want you to know I’m sorry for everything. I never meant to hurt you in any way. I’m truly sorry for what happened today.”
Gerrier, of Dixmont, was 21 on the night of June 3-4, 2015, when he and the girl — who had been reported missing — were found by family members and police in the outhouse, where he said they had gone for warmth and privacy from passing vehicles. Gerrier was living in Belgrade at that time.
The 98-minute recording made early on June 4, 2015, by Maine State Police Detective Ryan Brockway was played over the audio system in a courtroom at the Capital Judicial Center.
Gerrier’s attorney, Sherry Tash, maintains that confession, which Brockway extracted via a series of questions, as well as DNA samples from Gerrier, should be kept out of his criminal trial.
Tash maintains Gerrier, now 22, suffers too many mental health deficits to be able to give informed consent to any of it.
The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Michael Madigan, argued against suppressing the items.
“I don’t think the detective could have been more polite, more understanding, more conversational in his interactions with Travis,” Madigan said, adding, “Exhortation to tell the truth is not coercion.”
Gerrier is charged with gross sexual assault, unlawful sexual contact and furnishing liquor to a minor, as well as tampering with a victim and violation of condition of release. The latter two charges are dated Jan. 1-17, 2016, when Gerrier was out on bail with a condition prohibiting him from having contact with the girl. The state says he violated that. Gerrier pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Brockway testified at Thursday’s hearing, saying someone had told him Gerrier was “cognitively slow,” so Brockway employed skills he had learned in courses about how to interview people with cognitive disabilities and autism.
On the tape, as Brockway tells Gerrier he will not be arrested that night, Gerrier says, “I understand I made a mistake.”
Gerrier said the girl was a friend of his cousin, and he communicated with the girl via social media, arranging to walk to the parking lot to meet the night of June 3, 2015.
Initially Gerrier says, “I did kiss her, but that was like as a friend.”
After Brockway repeatedly urges him to tell the truth and says, “You’re leaving stuff out,” Gerrier says he put whiskey in a Gatorade bottle and gave the girl some.
Gerrier also described details of the sexual assault.
“I know she’s underage and it makes me seem like a sex offender,” he says. “Honestly, I’m not like that. Honestly, I was not thinking straight at all.”
As the recording played, Gerrier sat at the defense table in the courtroom, keeping his head down almost the whole time. Several of his relatives attended the hearing, leaving the courtroom occasionally as the tape played.
Afterward, Tash questioned Robert Riley, a clinical psychologist who evaluated Gerrier several times, and Riley said Gerrier has been diagnosed with IQ problems, intellectual disability, mood disorder and social anxiety as well as some aspects of autism spectrum disorder.
Riley said Gerrier’s cognitive abilities were consistent with someone about age 11 or 12.
“His level of functioning has been more childlike than someone his age,” Riley testified.
In December 2016, Justice Robert Mullen issued a ruling saying Gerrier was competent to stand trial.
When the attorneys offered closing arguments, Gerrier left the hearing, escorted back into the in-custody area before being returned to Kennebec County jail.
Tash argued that given “the totality of the circumstances,” admitting the interview and items would be “fundamentally unfair and a violation of due process.”
Judge Evert Fowle, who had several questions for attorneys during the hearing, indicated he would listen to the tape again before making a ruling on the defense motions.
Initially the prosecution had offered Gerrier a plea bargain that included a nine-month period behind bars. That length of time increased after Gerrier was charged with violating bail conditions by allegedly having Facebook contact with the girl and asking her to say that he did not force her to have sexual contact.
Then, after an incident Aug. 11, 2016, when Gerrier was hauled kicking, screaming and cursing from an inmate-holding area of the courtroom, the state indicated it is was seeking 20 years behind bars for Gerrier, according to information discussed at an earlier hearing.
The outburst apparently occurred when Gerrier learned that pleading guilty meant he would have to register as a lifetime offender under the state’s Sex Offender Registration & Notification Act.
Betty Adams — 621-5631