AUGUSTA — A Lewiston man accused of three counts of gross sexual assault had his bail reduced Tuesday, after having spent the last 17 months in jail unable to make bail while awaiting a trial delayed indefinitely in large part due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The case of Adamel D. Rosario Jr., 40, of Lewiston, is illustrative of the dilemma faced by the criminal justice system in balancing the defendant’s right to a speedy trial and to be considered innocent until proven guilty, with the need to protect the public and the victim from harm, while also ensuring the suspect does not flee.

Rosario was charged by Augusta police with three counts of gross sexual assault Sept. 4, 2019, for allegedly engaging, in each of the three counts, in a sexual act with the same person who at the time was younger than 12. The alleged assaults took place between August 2004 and August 2011.

Despite state prosecutors and the defense meeting multiple times to discuss resolving the case, the two sides have been unable to reach a plea agreement and the case awaits trial. That cannot currently be scheduled because jury trials are not taking place in Maine due to restrictions on public gatherings meant to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Meanwhile Rosario, unable to make his $15,000 bail, has been held in Kennebec County jail for the last 17 months. His attorney, Scott Hess, speculated it could be another six months before the case could go to trial after juries can once again be selected.

He argued, in the latest of multiple motions to amend bail filed on Rosario’s behalf, that his bail be reduced to $5,000 so he could pay it and get out of jail while awaiting trial.

“Seventeen months is a tremendously long time for a matter to be delayed before a trial,” Hess said via a Zoom videoconferencing feed broadcast into a Capital Judicial Center courtroom where only Justice William Stokes, a court clerk, a court security officer and a reporter where physically present. “It could be another six months before we’re able to pick a jury.”

Stokes agreed to reduce Rosario’s bail to $7,500, in part due to the long period of time he has already spent in jail.

“In many ways it’s unprecedented,” Stokes said. “Seventeen months is a long time to be held in pre-trial detention. But I can’t blame the state for that, I can’t blame the state for the pandemic.

“I’m doing this not because I think $15,000 is out of line. I’m doing this because he has been in custody for 17 months, pre-trial,” Stokes added. “He could be in custody for 20 months or more before he gets a trial.”

Assistant District Attorney Michael Madigan, the prosecutor, opposed reducing bail, due to the serious nature of the charges, a lack of information on where Rosario would live if released on bail and because he believes jury trials will resume in the not-too-distant future.

“I do anticipate we will see these cases coming up (for jury trial) very soon, and there is no question this is a priority case for the state,” Madigan said. “Bail should not be based on speculation.”

Stokes said, and dockets confirm, that the courts are seeing more motions to amend bail from suspects that have been stuck in jail in the pandemic, awaiting a jury trial or other resolutions to their cases.

“Because of the pandemic we’re seeing many more motions to amend bail than we ever have before, because we’ve been in a holding pattern for the last 12 months,” Stokes said.

He said he’s hopeful that jury trials will resume “in the near future,” but exactly when is hard to predict, with multiple unknowns remaining about the pandemic.

“May? June? We just don’t know,” Stokes said of jury trials resuming. “We know we’re making progress with the vaccinations and that’s going to be critical for getting people into this building.”

Hess further argued that cases of COVID-19 have been documented at Kennebec County jail, potentially endangering the health of someone like Rosario who has been held there so long.

However, Madigan said the county jail “is perhaps one of the safest and most secure facilities in the state right now” and has a system of placing new inmates in quarantine away from the current jail population.

Hess said Rosario has family members in the area and ties to the community. He said he would be able to find a place to live in the area.

Stokes said Rosario must find a place to live before he is released. Other bail conditions include he have no contact with the victim, their family, or any children under 16 years old, follow a curfew banning him from being out between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. other than for work or medical emergencies, and that Maine Pretrial Services agree to supervise him under a contract.

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