ELLSWORTH, Maine — A misdemeanor assault conviction for a former Gouldsboro man who had been accused of raping his wife has been vacated by a Superior Court justice.
The judge’s order is the latest development in Vladek Filler’s campaign to undo the findings against him in an eight-year legal saga that has produced both convictions and acquittals on charges that he assaulted his then-wife in Gouldsboro in 2005 and 2007. The legal battle also resulted, for the first time in recent memory, in a court-ordered sanction of a prosecutor in Maine.
As a result of the simple assault conviction being vacated, Filler has a clean record and has been exonerated of all the charges he faced in two separate trials over the allegations. Filler was found guilty of one gross sexual assault charge and two assault charges at his first trial in January 2009 and, after those convictions later were thrown out, he was convicted in May 2011 of only the misdemeanor assault.
But his legal battles are not over. Filler, 45, is suing more than a dozen people in federal court over the matter, most of whom are prosecutors or police officers who were directly or indirectly involved in the criminal case against him.
Filler’s attorney in the federal lawsuit, Thomas Hallett of Portland, said Friday that the lawsuit is still in its early stages and that so far there have been no substantive rulings in that case.
Filler, who now lives in suburban Atlanta with his two sons, said Friday in a brief emailed statement that he is glad to have been cleared of all the criminal allegations leveled by his ex-wife. He has maintained from the beginning that their marriage was unraveling in 2007 and that she fabricated the assault and rape accusations in an attempt to gain leverage in a looming custody battle over the boys.
“It has been a difficult eight-year nightmare for me and my family,” Filler said in the email. “I am very grateful to my attorney Hunter Tzovarras for his exceptional work which exonerated me upon [the] court’s review of this case.”
Tzovarras of Bangor said Thursday that the primary argument in Filler’s post-conviction review petition was that Filler never was provided with a copy of a Washington County Sheriff’s Department police cruiser dashboard camera video of an April 24, 2007, interview with Filler’s then-wife. Before his first trial, Filler and his defense attorney at the time, Daniel Pileggi of Ellsworth, had gone through normal court procedure to request a copy of the video from Assistant District Attorney Mary Kellett, who was prosecuting the case.
The video, which Filler argued may have contained information that would have been helpful to his defense, later was destroyed without a copy ever being provided to him or his attorney.
Kellett, who since has gone into private practice, subsequently was sanctioned by the Law Court after Filler successfully filed a complaint against her with the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar over this and other discovery violations and over statements Kellett made to the jury during his first trial. After holding a two-day hearing, the board later determined Kellett had violated rules of conduct that govern licensed attorneys in Maine and recommended that she be suspended.
Kellett, who is one of the defendant’s in Filler’s federal lawsuit, was not suspended but was required to undergo remediation training.
Joshua Randlett, one of Kellett’s attorneys in the federal lawsuit, declined to comment Friday on any of Filler’s legal cases.
Tzovarras said that current Hancock County District Attorney Matthew Foster, who was elected last fall and was not involved in Filler’s prosecution, did not object to Filler’s petition to vacate the assault conviction. Filler served 21 days in jail in October 2012 after being convicted of misdemeanor assault at his second trial.
Justice Robert Murray, the presiding judge at Filler’s second trial, ruled in favor of vacating the conviction on April 24, Tzovarras said.
“It’s been extremely important to [Filler to clear his name] since the allegations came about eight-plus year ago,” Tzovarras said. “He’s been vindicated.”
Foster said Friday that he did not oppose Filler’s convictions being vacated because Filler has served the sentence and, especially with the civil case pending in federal court, there has been enough legal wrangling over what has come down to a misdemeanor assault. Also, with Filler living in Georgia, Foster does not expect Filler to ever resurface in Maine’s criminal justice system.
“I think this office has been through enough on this case,” Foster said. “I felt [not opposing the petition] was in the interests of getting it [resolved].”