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Eliot Cutler faces up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for allegedly possessing child pornography. But based on sentences in similar cases, it is unlikely he’ll spend more than a few months behind bars.
Whether he pleads guilty or goes to trial and is convicted, Cutler most likely would be sentenced to a few years in prison, and would only have to serve a number of months of that time in prison followed by several years of probation. In addition, Cutler would have to register as a sex offender for 25 years.
While state law outlines maximum sentences for the crime Cutler is accused of committing, a number of factors point to him spending a few months, not years, behind bars. Those include a requirement that Maine judges consider similar cases and sentences imposed by other judges in crafting their own sentences, as well as Cutler’s lack of criminal history and the small number of images found on his electronic devices so far.
That said, the investigation into Cutler is ongoing and could lead to more charges in both Hancock and Cumberland counties, where he has homes. And federal authorities could step in, though that is unlikely.
At least two cases prosecuted in recent years in Hancock County, where Cutler is charged with four counts of possession of sexually explicit materials, show how Cutler’s case might be resolved if he is convicted. In both cases, the defendant served only a portion of the full sentence behind bars.
On March 8, Rene Amarillas, 49, of Bar Harbor was sentenced to three years in prison with all but nine months suspended after pleading guilty to one count of possession of sexually explicit materials, according to District Attorney Matthew Foster.
The traveling nurse uploaded child pornography to his phone while working at a Hancock County hospital, Foster said. Amarillas, like Cutler, had no criminal history.
Four years ago in the same Ellsworth courthouse, Superior Court Justice Bruce Mallonee sentenced computer repairman Jerome Humery, now 57, of Corea to one year in prison with all but 30 days suspended and two years of probation.
“To download this stuff is to support a truly awful industry,” Mallonee said at Humery’s sentencing, according to the Ellsworth American. “There were victims in these images whether they were taken last week or taken of people my age in the early ’60s. The harm is still there.
“I can’t punish the pornographer. All I can do is punish the customer and discourage other customers from punching the button when the time comes.”
In neighboring Penobscot County, Alan Kochis, 65, the former finance director for the Bangor School Department, was sentenced in December 2019 to three years in prison with all but six months suspended to be followed by two years of probation. Kochis pleaded guilty to viewing child pornography depicting boys under the age of 12 the day he was to be arraigned following his indictment.
Most defendants plead not guilty at arraignments while their cases move forward. In Kochis’ case, attorney Jeffrey Silverstein of Bangor negotiated a plea agreement with the Penobscot County District Attorney’s office early in the legal process.
Cutler’s attorney, Walter McKee of Augusta, could do the same.
While Maine’s eight district attorneys’ offices prosecute the majority of child pornograpy possession cases, federal prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office handle some.
Whether the case goes to federal court is most often determined by a handful of factors — whether a state or federal agency investigated the case, whether the defendant is accused of taking photos of or filming the sexual abuse of a child and sharing it on the internet, and the number of sexually explicit images found on a person’s devices.
Cutler’s case was investigated by the Maine State Police and, so far, just 10 images have allegedly been found on the devices seized at his Brooklin and Portland homes. That puts the case squarely in the local prosecutor’s purview.
Another well known Maine person charged in a child pornography case, former Assistant Attorney General James Cameron, the state’s top drug prosecutor, drew a much longer sentence than Cutler likely faces.
Cameron was sentenced to nearly 16 years in federal prison on 13 counts of transporting, receiving and possessing child pornography between July 10, 2006, and Jan. 26, 2008. He also absconded while on bail awaiting the outcome of his appeal. Investigators found between 150 and 300 images of child pornography on his home, but not work, computers.
In a different case that led to long prison sentences, Wade Robert Hoover, 44, of Augusta was sentenced in July 2013 to 40 years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to one count each of production and possession of child pornography. Hoover admitted to sexually assaulting two boys who took karate classes from him and sharing the images online.
Three years later in Kennebec County Superior Court, Hoover drew a state sentence of 60 years in prison for the sexual assaults.
Hoover is incarcerated in Virginia, serving his state and federal sentences at the same time. He will be returned to Maine to complete the 60-year state sentence after he serves the 40-year federal sentence.
BDN writer Bill Trotter contributed to this report.