Confusion in the prosecutor’s office about a felony rape case against an 18-year-old from Auburn led a judge to dismiss the charges after an assistant district attorney missed the first day of trial Thursday.

Isaac Fontaine, 18, of Auburn, who was a juvenile when he was charged in 2016, was scheduled for the one-day trial before Judge Susan Oram in Lewiston District Court.

But when the proceedings were due to get underway in the morning, Assistant District Attorney Richard Beauchesne was nowhere to be found.

When Fontaine’s attorney, Allan Lobozzo, went to the district attorney’s office in the courthouse to inquire about Beauchesne’s whereabouts, staff there told him they were unaware the trial had been scheduled for that day.

Andrew Robinson, district attorney for Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties, said Friday that Beauchesne had been at the prosecutor’s offices in Oxford County working on other cases. Beauschesne rushed to the Lewiston court, but wasn’t ready for trial, Lobozzo said.

“No one in the DA’s office had any idea it was going on,” he said. “The fact that it wasn’t on the DA’s calendar is extraordinary.”

Robinson said Friday that his office will refile the charges against Fontaine, which will start the process again and should lead to a court date in about three months.

Lobozzo had requested the case be dismissed with prejudice, meaning the charges could not be refiled, but the judge denied that request and dismissed it without prejudice, so prosecutors could refile the charges.

Robinson said his office is notified by the courts twice about upcoming trials – a notice sent a couple of weeks in advance and then a list of cases about a week ahead of trial. He said his office got the notice, but not the list, apparently because Fontaine’s trial was the only juvenile case scheduled for Lewiston District Court for Thursday.

“In this case, we were blindsided because the list never came,” he said.

But Mary Ann Lynch, spokeswoman for the Maine judiciary, said all parties in the case, including the district attorney’s office, were notified of the court date for the trial, as is standard procedure for all court events. She also said that the Fontaine case was specially scheduled and the DA’s office was notified of that.

Robinson said his office relies on the daily list of trials to start preparing, by pulling case files and notifying witnesses to show up at court.

Lynch declined Friday to say how frequently such case dismissals occur because an assistant district attorney is not present.

Lobozzo blamed the failure on a policy decision by Robinson, who in April 2016 eliminated the full-time juvenile prosecutor’s position within his office for handling juvenile cases.

But Robinson said he made that change because there are about 5,000 cases in the three counties he oversees, distributed among eight assistant district attorneys, leaving them with about twice the maximum workload recommended by the American Bar Association. The assistant district attorney who handled juvenile cases was responsible for fewer than 200 cases a year, he said, and the change was made to more equitably divide the workload.

“We’re doing everything we can with the resources we have,” he said.

Judicial records show that juvenile cases in Prosecutorial District 3 – Androscoggin, Franklin, and Oxford counties – have declined steadily, from 503 cases in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, to 320 in the most recent fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2016.

Robinson said he has contacted court officials to make sure that lists are always sent out in the future, regardless of how many cases are scheduled for the day.

“The court is willing to work with us about the issue,” he said. “Nobody wants this to happen.” Robinson said his office also contacted the alleged victim through the Auburn Police Department to tell her what had happened, and that while the charges were dismissed, his office would refile them. He said the victim did not know that the case was scheduled to be heard Thursday, so she wasn’t in court waiting to testify.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MattByrnePPH

Edward Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]

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