SANFORD — A Wells clergyman has lost his appeal of a misdemeanor assault conviction for placing his hand on a 15-year-old girl’s back and complimenting her tight jeans.

The girl testified that she was in a fast food restauraunt in 2016 when Peter W. Leon, 66, touched her back and told her that her “jeans looked nice … nice and tight in all the right places.”

Leon, who has been associated with Trinity Coastal Community Church, formerly known as Wells Branch Baptist Church, denied the allegations but was found guilty of assault – in this case defined as offensive physical contact – after a one-day trial in York County Superior Court in Alfred last November.

Leon was sentenced the next day to a suspended 60-day jail term and fined $300, subject to one year of administrative release with conditions that he have no contact with the victim or her family, and that he undergo psychological and sexual harassment counseling.

He appealed the conviction to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, contending he was denied a fair trial because one of the jurors made a statement that she had felt pressured to return a guilty verdict.

According to the decision handed up Tuesday by the high court, as the jury was leaving the courtroom after the 2017 trial, Leon spoke briefly to one of the jurors.

The juror told a judicial marshal that she had “gone against all of her morals in convicting this man” and that “the state had not proven the case but she could not make her fellow jurors continue with their deliberations and come back the following day.”

Although the marshal told the juror that she could contact the court the next morning to express any concerns, the juror did not, the decision says. The next day, when the parties were in court for the sentencing, the court informed them of the juror’s statement but also concluded that there was no evidence of juror misconduct and that the guilty verdict would stand, denying Leon’s request to postpone sentencing so he could research the issue.

“The juror did not describe any external misconduct or bias by any of the jurors, or any improper external influence or information that may have affected the verdict,” the justices wrote in the 10-page decision issued this week.

“Rather, the juror provided information about her own thought process and the interchange among the jurors in the jury room as they considered the evidence.”

Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 or 282-1535, ext. 327 or at:

[email protected]

filed under: