PORTLAND — A Jay hypnotherapist convicted of sex crimes against an underage girl is appealing his conviction to Maine’s highest court.

Aaron Patton, 38, was accused of using hypnotism to make the girl feel calmer after having sex. He was convicted last year in Androscoggin County Superior Court and sentenced to six years in prison for each of four counts of gross sexual assault, four years for one count of unlawful sexual contact and two counts of sexual abuse of a minor. All but six years of the sentence were suspended.

“I think there’s ample evidence that the jury was very conflicted and confused as to the evidence presented and what it meant,” Donald Hornblower, the lawyer representing Patton in his appeal, said during oral arguments before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Wednesday. “We believe, and I will try to argue further, the legal errors that occurred at trial tipped the balance and caused the conviction.”

The arguments in Patton’s appeal include assertions that the trial judge should not have allowed some evidence into the trial. That includes testimony about hypnosis, information about items such as lubricant used during sex and the presence of a book called “Sex and Hypnosis” in Patton’s home.

The girl, who was 17 at the time of the trial, testified that Patton began touching her sexually when she was 12 and that they started having intercourse when she was 14. Patton maintained that he didn’t have sex with her until she was 16, which is the age of consent.

According to testimony at the trial, Patton held a certification from the California-based Hypnosis Motivation Institute and advertised his services in a local publication and on a sign in front of his home when he lived in Livermore Falls.

Hornblower said Wednesday that he believes his strongest argument is that Patton’s Constitutional due process rights were violated when a statement to a police officer was allowed in the trial. Patton had told the officer that he needed to talk to his attorney, a statement that helped create the impression that Patton was untrustworthy.

Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Worden admitted that allowing the statement was a mistake, but a harmless one.

“We live in a ‘Law and Order’-drenched society,” Chief Justice Leigh Saufley said. “He says, ‘I need to talk to an attorney.’ Why isn’t that enough for us to assume a jury will take from that almost an admission of guilt?”

After Worden started to respond, Justice Ellen Gorman offered further explanation.

“I think the chief justice was referring to the show, ‘Law and Order’ … and only the guilty ‘lawyer up,'” she said.

Patton argues that none of the evidence about hypnosis should have been allowed. The girl and her mother provided testimony although they had no expertise in the area, which hurt Patton’s credibility and confused the issues in the case, he argues.

The state maintained that hypnosis was relevant in the relationship between Patton and the girl.

Patton’s appeal also maintains that information about Viagra, condoms, lubricant and gifts of lingerie to the girl was prejudicial, as well as the disclosure about “Sex and Hypnosis,” which Patton had testified was a gift.

Justice Andrew Mead questioned whether it was unfair to include such evidence.

“Is it just that it makes it graphic? I’m not sure it’s prejudicial,” he said.

Justice Joseph Jabar asked how those items could be more prejudicial than Patton admitting having sex with the girl after she turned 16.

The justices did not indicate when they will issue their opinion.


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