CARIBOU, Maine — Attorneys representing the defendant in a Castle Hill murder case asked for dismissal of the charges Thursday because a Maine State Police detective may have overheard phone calls between the defendant and his lawyer.
Bobby Nightingale, 40, of Presque Isle was charged nearly three years ago with the Aug. 13, 2019, murders of Roger Ellis, 51, and Allen Curtis, 25. The men were found shot in Ellis’ truck.
Nightingale was also charged with six other offenses and pleaded not guilty to all charges in October 2019.
The deaths jarred the small, usually quiet town of Castle Hill and all of Aroostook County, as residents grappled with fear and the loss of two of their neighbors. If the court grants the motion to dismiss, Nightingale’s trial, slated to start Aug. 15 in Caribou, will not take place.
Justice Stephen Nelson held Thursday’s hearing via Zoom video conferencing from the Caribou District Court.
Attorney Verne Paradie moved for the dismissal because the defense is uncertain whether Detective Greg Roy heard confidential calls between Nightingale and co-defense attorney John Tebbetts of Presque Isle.
There were 80 or more phone calls between Tebbetts and Nightingale, and no one wrote down what specific phone calls may have been overheard, Paradie said.
Jail personnel commonly record calls defendants make but are supposed to exclude attorney conversations. Maine State Police detectives said they heard parts of recorded phone calls that Nightingale and another defendant, Jaquile Coleman, made to their lawyers in 2020, The Maine Monitor reported in January.
Nightingale and Coleman asked for their indictments to be thrown out in July because of attorney-client privilege violations.
The defense is unsure what Roy may have heard, but don’t believe he listened deliberately, Paradie said. If the court does not grant the motion for dismissal, he requested no recordings between Nightingale and any person be played for jurors in the upcoming trial.
State Assistant District Attorney Leanne Robbin, who is prosecuting the case, asked the court to deny the motion.
Roy had been instructed to stop listening to any attorney calls and send them to Meg Elam, the state’s lead prosecutor. The prosecution has shared those phone call files with the defense, who have had time to determine what calls were in question, she said. Roy had indicated he heard nothing of substance.
The court will consider the motion and issue a ruling prior to jury selection, which is scheduled to start Aug. 10 in Houlton.
The court will also decide on a pending change-of-venue motion to move the case to a more impartial area of the state, Nelson said.
Nightingale made his initial appearance at Presque Isle District Court on Aug. 19, 2019, six days after the bodies were discovered. Police charged him with the murders in October 2019 as well as six other offenses including burglary, robbery, three counts of illegal possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon.
Last June, defense attorneys asked a Superior Court judge to suppress a witness identification and to try Nightingale separately for other alleged crimes.