A Soldier Pond man’s conviction on several sexual assault and contact charges was affirmed by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, but justices also ruled Tuesday that he must be resentenced for the crimes.
Fabien Pelletier, 59, was found guilty on three counts of gross sexual assault of a person under the age of 14 and two counts of unlawful sexual contact after a jury trial before Aroostook County Superior Court Justice Harold Stewart II last year.
The charges stemmed from incidents involving two boys from 1993 to 1998, according to court documents. The crimes did not come to light until the younger victim disclosed the abuse to a counselor in 2016.
Court documents state that the victims were related to Pelletier and were occasional overnight guests in his home. Pelletier touched one boy’s penis when the boy was 10 years old and additional sexual assaults occurred over the following years.
After the younger boy described the abuse to a detective, the older boy reported that when he was between 12 and 14 years old, Pelletier had shown him pornographic videos and committed sexual assaults against him.
The case went to trial, and Pelletier was found guilty. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison with all but 16 years suspended, followed by six years of probation.
Pelletier’s attorney, Tina Heather Nadeau, alleged in the appeal that the prosecutor engaged in misconduct that prejudiced her client when he alluded to a supposed confession that Pelletier made in his opening statement without presenting any testimony to support it.
Nadeau contended that the state noted in its opening statement that the younger boy’s mother would testify, but she ultimately was not put on the stand. Court documents stated that the younger boy’s mother had confronted Pelletier about the abuse and he had responded, “don’t worry, it won’t happen again.”
Writing for the majority, Justice Andrew Mead noted that Pelletier had not offered any evidence that the state prosecutor knew at the time of opening statements that the mother would not be called as a witness, so his appeal failed on that point.
At the same time, Pelletier argued that his right to a jury trial was violated when the court enhanced the penalty for his crime beyond what was statutorily authorized.
Mead wrote that the state had conceded to that point, and had agreed to remand the matter for resentencing.
The state will not seek a sentence beyond 20 years, according to court documents.
Aroostook County District Attorney Todd Collins represented the state before the Supreme Court.
A resentencing date had not been scheduled as of Thursday.
If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 800-871-7741.