AUGUSTA — An attorney argued Monday that a 22-year-old former Belgrade man is not competent to stand trial on charges of raping an 11-year-old girl in 2015 and then contacting her early this year by using a fake name on Facebook while he was on bail.

Travis R. Gerrier, most recently of Dixmont and Carmel, has been in custody since February.

Gerrier was in handcuffs as he sat at the defense table during Monday’s hearing at the Capital Judicial Center. He spent almost all the time staring down at the table or at his hands as his attorney, Sherry Tash, questioned a witness and made a closing argument.

Justice Robert Mullen gave both the defense and the prosecution until Dec. 12 to hand in written arguments or other cases supporting their positions before he renders a decision.

Gerrier was indicted in September on charges of gross sexual assault, tampering with a victim, violating a condition of release, unlawful sexual contact and furnishing liquor to a minor. He pleaded not guilty.

He was initially charged with gross sexual assault in June 2015 after the girl was reported missing by her family and then was discovered with Gerrier in an outbuilding near her family home. Police said both had consumed alcohol.

At the time, Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said the two had been communicating through Facebook.

Then, in January, police allege Gerrier violated a condition of his release by contacting the victim via Facebook under a fake name and telling her she needed to tell police “that he didn’t make her do it,” according to a court affidavit filed by Kennebec Sheriff’s Office Deputy Brittany Johnson.

On Monday, Tash said Gerrier continues to believe that he can be cleared if the victim testifies that he did not force her.

“He continually goes back to the idea that ‘I didn’t force her. I can be acquitted,'” Tash told Mullen.

Tash said Gerrier lacks the capacity to understand the length of the sentence the state is currently seeking — 20 years. Tash said he has some concept of a year or two.

“He thinks the state’s just asking for 20 years in order to scare him,” Tash said. She said problems with low intelligence, autism, mood disorders and social anxiety give Gerrier limited judgment skills more typical of an 11- or 12-year-old.

“I think that he’s incompetent, and I don’t think, according to Dr. (Robert) Riley and according to his impairment, that he can be made competent,” Tash said.

Robert Riley, a psychologist who interviewed Gerrier on behalf of the defense, testified Monday that Gerrier understood the gross sexual assault charge against him. He also said that Gerrier’s reasoning and decision-making skills are limited partly because of his low IQ, which has been tested at 65.

“His processing skills are at or below the first percentile,” Riley said, adding that it was unlikely to change with medication or therapy.

Under questioning by the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Kristin Murray-James, Riley said Gerrier understood what he did was wrong and expressed “a high degree of remorse.”

Murray-James maintains Gerrier has the skills to stand trial and make decisions with the assistance of his attorney.

Initially the prosecution was offering a plea bargain that would have 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.

Now, after an incident Aug. 11, 2016, when Gerrier was hauled kicking, screaming and cursing from an area of the courtroom where inmates are held, the state indicates it is seeking 20 years behind bars for Gerrier, according to information discussed at the hearing.

The outburst apparently resulted 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

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

 

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