The Kennebec County jury seeking a verdict in the sexual assault trial of a Lincoln County deputy deadlocked on 20 counts and found him not guilty on two other counts.

Kenneth L. Hatch, 47, of Whitefield had been charged with 22 felonies – 11 counts of sexual abuse of a minor, three counts of unlawful sexual contact, and eight counts of aggravated furnishing of marijuana. He was accused of sexually assaulting three girls and providing them marijuana and alcohol in exchange for sex.

Hatch was found not guilty on one count of sexual abuse of a minor and one count of aggravated furnishing of marijuana.

He had no visible reaction when the verdicts were read, although audible gasps came from the group of eight women and one man seated behind him in the courtroom.

Richard Elliott, Hatch’s attorney, said the state Attorney General’s Office will have to decide whether to retry Hatch.

“There’s no indication at this time whether they will do that or not,” Elliott said.

Assistant Attorney General John Risler would not say Monday whether the state would seek to retry Hatch. The prosecutor said the defense and prosecution will meet with the judge Dec. 20 to determine the status of the remaining charges. Before the conference, Risler plans to talk with each of the three women who accused Hatch of assaulting them.

Justice William Stokes polled the jury of seven women and five men; each attested they were deadlocked and further deliberation would not resolve that. He declared a manifest need for a mistrial on counts one to 12 and 15 to 22.

Risler said the jury sent out a note, which the judge read into the court record, in which they underlined the words, “We are done deliberating.”

The drug counts allege that Hatch gave marijuana to two of the young girls in exchange for sex. In one of those instances, the state contends the marijuana came from evidence he had seized.

The jury deliberated for about five hours Friday and three hours Monday before determining it was deadlocked on the 20 counts.

“It was a fairly long deliberation for a Maine jury, but given the number of counts jurors had to consider it’s not that unusual,” said Walter McKee, a prominent Augusta-based defense attorney who has been involved in more than 200 jury trials in his 25-year career. “It shows the jury was doing its job and there is no science to determine how long that will take.”

McKee said the two sides can ask the judge for permission to poll the jurors about why they could not reach a verdict on all the counts. The poll – it could be in writing or by phone – could prove useful to the prosecution and the defense, and especially to the state as it tries to determine if the case should be retried, McKee said.

Elliott, Hatch’s attorney, was pleased with the result.

“They obviously considered this long and hard. Any time there is a hung jury, it shows the jury took their positions seriously and didn’t move from them,” he said. “They stuck to their guns, and I am always impressed by that.”

Hatch made no comment Monday.

Elliott didn’t know why the jury was able to come to an agreement on two counts but not the others.

“The state indicated in its closing that there were a couple of counts where the dates had shifted, but I don’t know why the jury came in with that verdict,” he said.

He said Hatch, who has been free on bail, was extremely relieved at the verdicts.

“He would like to see all ‘not guilties,’ but two ‘not guilties’ and 20 hung means we live to fight another day,” Elliott said.

Stokes agreed to make two changes to the bail conditions. Over the state’s objection, Stokes said Hatch will be able to have access to his shotgun and rifle for hunting season, and his visits with his nieces will no longer have to be reported to the Attorney General’s Office.

“We were a little disappointed in Lincoln County’s attitude throughout this whole thing,” Elliott said, noting that Hatch was out on disability when the charges were brought. “I think they were waiting to see if he was convicted before they made any decisions.”

Lincoln County Sheriff Todd Brackett was not present in court Monday. Brackett was in the courtroom Friday to watch closing statements, but was not allowed to attend the trial because he was a potential witness. He was not called to testify.

Hatch has been on unpaid leave from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office since he was charged in June 2016. On Monday, Brackett said Hatch remains on unpaid administrative leave.

Elliott said all three accusers knew each other and had an ax to grind against the deputy. He cited several inconsistencies in the testimony of the accusers compared with previous statements they gave to investigators.

The prosecution said the defense’s arguments about why the girls would make false claims did not hold water. Risler, the prosecutor, said inconsistencies are not unusual given the time that has passed since the alleged abuse.

Hatch was named deputy of the year in 2015. He had previously been a detective sergeant with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, but was demoted in 2013 for unspecified reasons. An investigation by the Attorney General’s Office resulted in a decision not to prosecute.

John Rogers, the director of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, said Hatch’s certification to serve as a law enforcement officer in Maine will remain on interim suspension until the conclusion of the criminal cases. The interim suspension was agreed to by the academy board and Hatch last fall.

Press Herald Staff Writer Dennis Hoey and Courier-Gazette Staff Writer Stephen Betts contributed to this report.

Jessica Lowell can be contacted at 621-5632 or at:

[email protected]

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