A judge will not order the state police to release an investigation into a sexual assault complaint brought against Hallowell Police Chief Eric Nason by one of his subordinates.

Superior Court Justice Donald Marden issued the ruling late Friday, saying that too much personal information is contained in the report and that there is no compelling public interest since Hallowell officials already have the report “on a confidential basis” should they choose to take some personnel action.

“The court, in conducting its in camera review, finds an overwhelming amount of very personal intimate information going far and beyond that having been disclosed by counsel for the parties,” Marden wrote in the 11-page decision. “Disclosure would serve no public interest and would be completely unwarranted in light of all the circumstances.”

The denial of the public access request filed by the Kennebec Journal follows oral arguments Sept. 5 in Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta.

The Kennebec Journal sought the investigative record into a June 2013 alleged sexual assault by Nason against another member of the department, a 22-year-old female officer whom he still supervises. The district attorney’s office did not file any criminal charges as a result of that investigation, which was conducted by Maine State Police.

Attorney Matthew Warner, who sought the records on behalf of the Kennebec Journal, said Monday he is disappointed with the ruling.


“We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision and especially the court’s position that no public interest is served by disclosure of these records,” Warner said. “The state police spent six months investigating allegations that a high-ranking law enforcement official, a police chief, sexually assaulted a subordinate, and then simply closed the file without explanation and without pressing charges.”

The state supports the decision. Tim Feeley, a spokesman for the Maine attorney general’s office, said Monday, “We are pleased that the court took seriously the important privacy interests of citizens who bring forward complaints and are involved in the investigation of sexual assault.”

In the oral arguments, the Kennebec Journal requested the records be released with private information redacted, but Marden’s ruling didn’t address that.

Marden’s written ruling also vindicated the performance of the state police and the district attorney’s office.

He wrote that “this court finds an absence of evidence, or even an indication, of improper techniques and conclusions committed by the Maine State Police in its investigation.” He also said he found no evidence of wrongdoing by the district attorney’s office, which did not file charges.

Warner, the newspaper’s attorney, said it’s important the records be made public to allow a review of the investigation.


“The public is ill served by such secrecy,” he said. “Keeping these records confidential diminishes public confidence in a number of institutions including the state police, the DA, the Hallowell Police Department and the city of Hallowell. Public oversight and accountability of law enforcement especially is necessary to the strong public interest in the integrity of our police departments and law enforcement institutions.”

Scott Monroe, managing editor for the Kennebec Journal, said no decision had been made whether to appeal the case to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

“We’re evaluating the ruling and considering an appeal of the judge’s decision,” Monroe said. “We appealed this case to superior court because we feel there is a substantial public interest.”

Marden also referred in his decision to a position taken by the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, which filed a friend of the court brief in the case, citing its stand in his decision by saying, “Public disclosure would have a profound effect on future potential victims.”

The Kennebec Journal sought copies of that investigation in May under the state Freedom of Access Act, the open records law, and was denied all but “three inconsequential emails between staff members at the (Department of Public Safety),” according to the complaint.

Warner had asked the court to order the release of the investigative record, citing substantial public interest in the state police report regarding the “completeness and thoroughness of the investigation,” interest in the integrity of the Hallowell Police Department and in the city retaining both officers.


“The public interest is so substantial that disclosure is warranted,” Warner said.

Assistant Attorney General Laura Yustak Smith argued against the release of the report, saying it was confidential criminal history record information rather than a public record.

“The fact that the newspaper seeks the information doesn’t establish the public interest,” Smith said.

Betty Adams — 621-5631


Twitter: @betadams

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.