AUGUSTA — The specter of a fourth trial on unlawful sexual contact and unlawful sexual touching charges no longer haunts Jonathan M. Carey.

After 41 months behind bars, followed by 18 months on bail conditions, Carey, 41, formerly of Augusta, saw the charges dismissed last week.

“He’s very relieved that this case is finally over,” said his attorney, Robert Sandy. “He has always maintained his innocence.”

Sandy spoke on behalf of his client, who declined to speak directly.

“He did serve three and a half years in prison for this,” he said. “His sense is relief that it’s over.”

Justice William Stokes ordered the dismissal last week, a move sought by Sandy on the grounds that Carey could not exercise his constitutional right to confront and question the person identified as the victim. The girl died in a traffic accident in 2014.

Stokes’ written decision says the girl “tragically, is not available to testify again.”

“Our hearts go out to the family of the young woman who was killed in a car accident,” Sandy said.

The state did not object to the motion to dismiss, but Stokes noted that the girl’s mother wrote to the court, objecting to the dismissal.

Stokes described the girl as “the critical witness in the case against the defendant,” with the judge underling the first word, “the.”

Carey’s conviction had been tossed out by Justice Nancy Mills in August 2015 on the grounds that Carey wasn’t represented well enough during the trial resulting in the convictions.

Then the Kennebec County District Attorney’s Office appealed Mills’ decision setting aside the convictions. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Mills’ order in October 2016.

Stokes wrote in his decision, “Reading a printed transcript of (the girl’s) prior testimony to the jury, from trials that have been found to involve ineffective assistance of counsel, cannot adequately protect the defendant’s constitutional rights to confrontation.” The original charges stemmed from an alleged incident in July 2008 in Augusta. Carey was accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl, and testimony at trial indicated she was sleeping with two other girls in the same bed.

Two previous trials — in July 2010 and September 2011 — ended in mistrials. Carey had been sentenced by Mills in November 2012 to four years in prison, to be followed by four years of probation. He had been behind bars since the jury convicted him in March 2012.

“There’s no way to go forward without the victim’s testimony,” District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said Thursday. “It’s heartbreaking that he gets away with this because she died. We’ve done everything we can.”

Carey had maintained he was innocent of the charges, refusing to accept a plea bargain that called for him to plead guilty to unlawful sexual touching and be sentenced to serve an initial 30 days of a one-year sentence, with the remainder suspended.

The 2012 convictions were vacated by Mills as a result of a post-conviction review process in which Sandy represented Carey and raised a number of issues about the case, including the actions by defense attorney Lisa Whittier, who represented Carey at all three trials.

“This was a challenging case to handle and involved difficult issues of law,” Mills wrote in her 17-page order. “Events were unanticipated and, as trial counsel testified, ‘all happened so fast,’ which presented obstacles arduous to maneuver.”

After Mills’ decision was sent to the Bolduc Correctional Center in Warren, where Carey was imprisoned, he was brought to the Capital Judicial Center and later released from the Kennebec County jail on bail conditions.

Sandy said Carey is still in Maine but no longer living in Augusta.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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