SKOWHEGAN — The defense attorney for a Madison man charged in connection with a fatal 2015 crash in Starks has filed a motion in court to dismiss the charge, citing violations of discovery rules involving police notes as evidence from the crash.

Attorney Brad Grant also said this week that two investigators from the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office wrote in their incident reports that there was “no crime involved” and recommended that the case be closed against Jonathan Cayford, who is charged with manslaughter as the driver in the crash that killed Clint J. Briggs on a back country road west of the town of Anson.

The original notes taken on the crash, if there were any, have since been destroyed, Grant said, constituting the discovery violation. Grant says in his motion to dismiss that the deputies knew their notes should have been part of the discovery material under the sheriff’s office official policy of “Recording of Suspects of Serious Crimes & the Preservation of Notes and Records.” He said the deputies’ notes should be part of the discovery under Rule 16 of the Maine Rules of Criminal Procedure.

But there may be an exception to Rule 16 for written materials that reflect the investigating officer’s thoughts and conclusions about the case, according to state law: Rule 16: “(3) Exception: Work Product. The attorney for the State is not required to disclose legal research or records, correspondence, reports, or memoranda to the extent that they contain the mental impressions, conclusions, opinions, or legal theories of the attorney for the State or members of his or her legal staff.”

District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said it’s not the job of police to determine if a crime was committed. That’s why she brought the case to a grand jury.

Cayford, then 24, was indicted by a Somerset County grand jury in December 2016 on a manslaughter charge in connection with the fatal crash more than a year earlier, in which police said he was passing cars at 80 mph. Briggs was killed and Cayford and another person were injured in the crash on Nov. 13, 2015, on Anson Road in Starks.

Briggs, 21, a passenger in the car driven by Cayford, was found dead at the scene, the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office said at the time.

In court documents, Grant further asserts that the original notes taken by sheriff’s deputies as part of the investigation after the crash have been destroyed, leaving only their accident reports as evidence.

“The officers destroyed their notes in preparation of their report,” Grant said by phone this week. “There’s a policy that the sheriff’s department has that explains that that’s discoverable — especially in this situation. Not only is it discoverable, but it’s probably exculpatory, meaning it helps my client because those notes probably formed the basis of their recommendation that the case should be closed.”

Grant noted that Deputy Joseph Jackson was the lead investigator in the case. Jackson indicated in his incident report: “Status: No Crime Involved.” Jackson has stated in court documents that he does not recall taking handwritten notes during the crash investigation, but if he had, he would have destroyed them at the time he typed his report.

Deputy Craig Dyer took notes but destroyed them when his official report was done, according to court documents.

Maloney, the district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties, said that destroying notes after writing a report is consistent with sheriff’s office policy and that all information was provided to Grant as required under the rules of discovery.

“It is the work of law enforcement to gather all the evidence,” Maloney said in an email to the Morning Sentinel. “It is the work of the District Attorney and the Grand Jury to decide whether or not the evidence constitutes a crime. Upon my recommendation, the Grand Jury indicted Mr. Cayford for vehicle manslaughter. We are ready to proceed to trial.”

Grant, a former assistant district attorney in Kennebec County, said court proceedings could be delayed further because Deputy Jackson is on paid administrative leave as one of the three Somerset County deputies involved in the fatal shooting of a suspected gunman July 5 on Russell Road in Madison.

A tentative date for a hearing on the motion to dismiss has been set for two days, Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, Grant said. Grant also has filed a motion to suppress as evidence all statements made to police while Cayford was in custody because, he said, the statements were made in violation of Cayford’s rights to remain silent under the Miranda ruling.

He added that it took the district attorney more than a year to bring the case before a grand jury, suggesting that there were “major issues that the state was dealing with.”

Maloney would not say whether a blood-alcohol test was done on Cayford after the fatal accident.

She said Maine bar rules prevent her from discussing the facts before the conclusion of the jury trial.

“The reason is clear,” she said. “We want to be able to pick an impartial jury that will decide the case based only on what they hear in the courtroom.”

According to court documents, the vehicle condition was not a contributing factor in the crash that killed Briggs, and the crash “was caused by speed with no other contributing factors.”

There is no police incident report in the court file.

Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster said a blood test was taken, but he would not reveal the results because it’s still an active investigation. As for the department policy on preservation of deputies’ notes, Lancaster said if notes were taken that were not thrown away after the report was typed, then those notes would be part of the discovery materials. Otherwise, he said, it’s perfectly acceptable to dispose of notes once a formal incident report is completed.

“We have complied with all the discovery requests,” he said.

According to the sheriff’s office, Cayford, driving west, was passing a line of other westbound vehicles at a high speed when he went off the road.

Deputies at the scene estimated Cayford’s speed at 80 mph. They said that as the vehicles he was passing approached a corner in the road near the intersection of the Olde Ferry Road, Cayford lost control of the 1998 Nissan Maxima, striking several trees. Briggs was not wearing a seat belt, the sheriff’s department said.

Cayford was taken to Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan after the crash. A 17-year-old female passenger, who was in the front seat, was taken by LifeFlight of Maine helicopter to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. She survived her injuries.

The charge against Cayford is a class A felony, punishable by up to 25 years in prison if he is convicted. He is charged with being reckless or criminally negligent in causing the death of Clint J. Briggs.

Cayford was arrested in December 2016 at Inland Hospital in Waterville on a warrant based on the indictment. Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster said his department had information that Cayford was visiting at Inland then. Waterville police found Cayford at the hospital, and Deputy Sheriff Cpl. Gene Cole arrested him and took him to the Somerset County Jail in East Madison.

Lancaster said the investigation took more than a year because of the amount of evidence police had to sift through.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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