SKOWHEGAN — A lawyer representing Detective Sgt. Don E. Avery, of the Skowhegan Police Department, entered a not guilty plea by mail this week to a single count of domestic violence assault.

Avery, 36, was arrested Sept. 6 and booked at the Somerset County Jail. He later was released on personal recognizance bail, which is a written promise signed by the defendant to show up for future court appearances and not engage in illegal activity while on release.

According to court documents in Skowhegan, Avery, who now lives in North Anson, is charged with intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury or offensive physical contact to his ex-wife in June this year in Madison.

An investigator with the attorney general’s office conducted several interviews, as did an official with the Maine State Police.

Friends and family members told investigators that physical and verbal abuse had been ongoing. The case file is many pages long.

Avery’s ex-wife, whose identity the Morning Sentinel is not publishing because she is the victim of alleged domestic violence, told investigators that she had been assaulted in February, March and April 2017 and finally on or about Father’s Day this year, when a family member reported seeing Avery push the woman to the floor, where she was punched with a closed fist, according to the court documents.

She was crying and bleeding from the head, according to the document.

Initial arguments between Avery and his ex-wife appear to have culminated with a separation in 2016 and later with disagreements over financial issues, in which the woman allegedly called Avery a “deadbeat dad.” Disagreements appeared to have escalated to a point that each party had obtained a protection order against the other.

The couple divorced in January.

Avery’s attorney, John Richardson, of the law firm Moncure and Barnicle, of Topsham, said in an email, “This case stems from a contentious divorce which (more than a year ago) included false claims of domestic violence that were dismissed at the time of the final divorce hearing. Police Officers are easy targets for these types of charges and for some unknown reason these claims have surfaced again.”

The woman said she did not report the alleged initial assaults because she was scared and feared that police investigators would take his side of the story.

Skowhegan police Chief David Bucknam said no one is above the law and that investigators would not take sides on such a case.

“As your police chief, I would like to stress that this agency is committed to transparency and I look forward to discussing this unfortunate incident more fully in the near future when the court system deems it appropriate,” Bucknam said in a statement Sept. 6. “Until that occurs, I want the residents to know that everyone in Skowhegan is accountable under the law. As unfortunate and sad as this incident is to me, let me be clear: No one in Skowhegan is above the law. Period.”

Avery has been placed on unpaid administrative leave pending the outcome of the internal affairs investigation, which is standard procedure when such incidents arise, Bucknam said.

Avery was hired in March 2016. His current annual salary is $51,667, according to Bucknam.

Maeghan Maloney, district attorney for Kennebebc and Somerset counties, said the charge against Avery is a misdemeanor, a class D offense, punishable by up to one year in the county jail and a $2,000 fine.

A domestic violence assault conviction also carries an additional lifetime prohibition of gun ownership and completion of a certified batterers’ intervention program, Maloney said.

A dispositional hearing on the charge against Avery is scheduled for Nov. 28, with a tentative trial date scheduled for Feb. 4, 2019, in Skowhegan.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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