CARIBOU, Maine — A superior court justice has denied a defense request to dismiss murder charges against a Presque Isle man accused of killing two people.
Defense attorneys asked for the charges to be dismissed during a Zoom hearing on Aug. 4 because a Maine State Police detective may have overheard phone calls between Nightingale and his lawyer in 2020. Maine Superior Court Justice Stephen Nelson denied the request in his ruling on Thursday afternoon. Nightingale’s trial will start on Monday in Caribou as scheduled.
Verne Paradie, an attorney for Nightingale, moved for dismissal because the defense is uncertain whether Detective Greg Roy heard confidential calls between Nightingale and co-defense attorney John Tebbetts of Presque Isle.
It’s a matter of accidental overhearing, Nelson said in his ruling, and the prosecution turned over all phone calls to Nightingale’s attorneys.
“Prudent steps were promptly taken by the prosecutors to address the inadvertent disclosure. In light of the foregoing, the defendant’s motion for discovery/dismissal is hereby denied,” Nelson said.
Nightingale has been awaiting trial at the Cumberland County Jail since December 2019. He recently was transferred to Aroostook County Jail for jury selection and trial. In July he asked for his indictments to be thrown out because of attorney-client privilege violations related to the police hearing the phone calls.
Law enforcement personnel commonly review calls defendants make from jails, but are to stop listening when the calls involve attorneys. Part of Roy’s job was to review calls Nightingale made from jail.
“While reviewing the recordings, Roy heard a portion of two calls that may have involved the defendant and attorney Tebbetts or a member of attorney Tebbetts’ staff. Upon encountering the calls, he immediately stopped listening to the calls,” Nelson said in his ruling.
The detective said what he heard was preliminary small talk, Nelson said. Roy did not report the calls at the time, but when he learned of a media report suggesting listening to such communications was widespread, he contacted the assistant attorney general and informed her of the two calls he heard parts of, the justice said.
The state and defense discussed the phone calls in May 2020, Nelson said. They agreed the attorney general’s office would not review them but would send all of them to the defense, in case they contained confidential information.
No one contends that all of the actual recordings were not provided to the defense, Nelson said. What’s at issue is that Roy didn’t disclose exactly what he heard or the specific calls he heard portions of.
There is no evidence the state failed to produce any reported calls. Since Roy didn’t note the calls, no documentation for them existed, Nelson said. Therefore, the defense failed to show that prosecutors violated discovery rules.
A pending change-of-venue motion was withdrawn, according to Caribou court personnel.
A jury of nine women and seven men, which includes four alternates, was selected for the trial Wednesday and Thursday at the Houlton courthouse.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified who Detective Greg Roy contacted when he reported the calls.