AUGUSTA — Eric L. Bard of Sidney, accused of sexually assaulting a 4-year-old girl he was babysitting and recording it, was back in court Tuesday as his attorneys continued to argue over whether he’s competent to stand trial.

Bard, 24, was indicted on 21 charges, including gross sexual assault, sexual exploitation of a minor and assault, has been in custody either in Kennebec County jail or at Riverview Psychiatric Center since his arrest in July 2012. According to the indictment, the offenses all involved the same child and occurred between Dec. 1, 2011-April 30, 2012, in Augusta.

The orange jail uniform the 4-foot-11 man was wearing Tuesday indicated he came to court from the jail. His long auburn hair was pulled back in a pony tail and he had a bushy beard. He bobbed slowly forward and back for much of the hearing as he sat at a table in court, and looked down or only at the table.

Gina Yamartino, one of Bard’s defense attorneys, told Justice Donald Marden that Bard was incapable of understanding the nature of the charges against him and of cooperating with defense counsel in a reasonable and rational manner.

“He’s a very, very limited young man,” Yamartino said.

She later said, “The concern, your honor, is that the demands of these charges exceed his abilities.”

All but one of the charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Marden said late Tuesday he expects to rule prior to July 28 on Bard’s competency to proceed to trial.

A psychologist called by the defense, Charles Robinson, testified Tuesday that Bard could answer simple questions but was stymied by more complex matters, such as roles of various people in the courtroom or plea bargains.

Robinson said test results indicated Bard had an IQ of around 85, a score between low average and below average.

When the judge asked Robinson whether Bard was competent to live in the community, Robinson said, “I believe Mr. Bard’s going to need very significant oversight for the rest of his life.”

Robinson was the only witness called by the defense on Tuesday.

The prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Paul Rucha, called Ann LeBlanc, director of the State Forensic Service who evaluated him most recently when he was an inpatient at Riverview, the state forensic hospital, in February.

She said he answered questions more promptly, had better eye contact and better speech. She said hospital staff saw him reading the newspaper, participating in a current events group, and asking about his medication.

“My opinion is that Mr. Bard has cognitive limitations and language limitations but that he’s also minimizing the skills that he has with the intent of derailing the legal process that he’s in,” LeBlanc said.

She said she did a memory test with him and results showed he deliberately chose the wrong answers.

“I agree with Dr. Robinson that Mr. Bard suffers from anxiety, but it is not severe and debilitating,” LeBlanc said.

Marden on Tuesday indicated he wanted nothing to delay the case further. It took more than a year for Bard to be arraigned on the charges.

Last month, Marden imposed a gag order prohibiting court personnel and witnesses from commenting on the case to members of the media, saying he wanted to ensure the ability to get a fair and impartial jury.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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