Eric Bard, formerly of Sidney, is flanked by his lawyers during a hearing Jan. 5, 2015, at Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA — A former Sidney man who was convicted on child rape charges, but later had his conviction overturned, had his request declined Thursday to drop his current lawyer months before the defendant is expected to face a new trial.

Superior Court Justice Daniel Billings cited that proximity to trial in rejecting Eric Bard’s motion seeking a new lawyer in place of his current appointed lawyer, John Pelletier.

The criminal acts are alleged to have occurred in 2011 and 2012, and have been pending so long that Billings said it might be unprecedented in Maine.

Billings said the motion to withdraw from the case, filed by Pelletier at Bard’s request, came too late in the process. The judge also said Bard, 33, did not cite what Billings considered legitimate reasons for replacing Pelletier or show how Pelletier’s legal representation has been inadequate.

“Mr. Pelletier was appointed to represent in January of this year,” Billings said. “He communicated regularly with Mr. Bard since his appointment, and if there were clear communication difficulties, those issues could and should have been brought to the court before now. Mr. Bard’s concerns were first communicated within a couple of months of trial.

“What the court heard about the reasons Mr. Bard seeks new counsel is lacking. The court heard nothing suggesting Mr. Pelletier’s representation has been insufficient. The court heard nothing indicating the relationship” between Bard and Pelletier was so broken down they could not go forward with the trial.


Billings said he also heard from Pelletier that the lawyer could meet his duties representing Bard if the motion for him to withdraw were denied.

Bard pleaded guilty in August 2014 and was convicted on 21 counts, including gross sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a minor, in connection with the sexual assault of a 4-year-old girl he was babysitting. Bard also recorded the acts on his cellphone, prosecutors alleged.

Bard was sentenced to 50 years in prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised release. His lawyers appealed his case to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled in favor of his appeal and granted him a new trial.

The court ruled Bard was deprived of due process because the judge in the first trial, Superior Court Justice Donald Marden, met improperly during the trial with Maeghan Maloney, the district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties, without a lawyer for the defense present. Marden had requested to meet with Maloney.

Superior Court Justice Donald Marden speaks during Eric Bard’s sentencing July 24, 2015, at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Joural file

As his second trial on the same charges moved forward in July at the Capital Judicial Center in July, Bard pleaded not criminally responsible by reason of insanity through Pelletier, who was appointed to represent him. That plea was added to Bard’s previous not guilty plea to the charges against him.

The offenses allegedly occurred between December 2011 and April 2012.


The investigation began in May 2012, when a woman came across a Craigslist advertisement offering to baby-sit, photograph and bathe children. She reported it to Maine State Police, who, after filing subpoenas to get the address used to open the account from the internet provider, learned that someone at Bard’s address had created the ad.

After first denying it, Bard acknowledged he had placed the ad, according to officials. Police said Bard admitted he had looked at child pornography on computers at the home.

Police initially looked for child pornography on Bard’s computers, then located a micro SD card, used for storing data, which Bard told them contained “personal things,” according to an affidavit filed in court by the chief investigator, Detective Chris Tremblay of the Maine State Police.

Prosecutor Paul Rucha, an assistant attorney general in Maine, said some of the photographs on the SD card showed Bard engaging in sexual assaults of the 4-year-old girl he had baby-sat.

The arguments of Pelletier and Rucha in court Thursday on Pelletier’s motion to withdraw from the case took place after Billings, in response to a motion from Pelletier, closed the courtroom to the public, including the news media.

Pelletier argued that testimony on why Bard wanted a new lawyer could be an infringement on the privacy of Bard, whose mental health issues came up both in his first trial and the lead-up to his retrial, and if aired in public and documented in the press, could prejudice potential future jurors and make it harder for Bard to get a fair trial.

He also said Bard’s testimony on the motion could inadvertently reveal privileged attorney-client information, if done in open court.

Billings said he was reluctant to close the courtroom to the public and news media because transparency in its operations assures the public of the court’s credibility. He said, however, the need to ensure Bard got a fair trial was more important than the courtroom remaining open to the public, for the limited purpose of hearing the arguments regarding Pelletier’s representation as Bard’s lawyer.

Billings issued his decision in the case after the courtroom was reopened to the public.

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