Pagels’ appeal sunk by court



Steve Pagels, shown here at the helm of one of his excursion boats, has lost a court appeal of damages related to a sexual assault case tried in civil court. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Steve Pagels, shown here at the helm of one of his excursion boats, has lost a court appeal of damages related to a sexual assault case tried in civil court.
ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

PORTLAND — The state’s highest court has upheld a lower court decision that awarded $1.84 million in damages to a woman who claims a Cherryfield businessman who operates tour boat and ferry services on Mount Desert Island sexually assaulted her when she was a child.

In a Sept. 3 decision, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld the October 2014 decision in Washington County Superior Court that found Steven Pagels liable for sexual assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The decision followed a three-day bench trial that included testimony from the plaintiff and three other women who said they had been either sexually assaulted or inappropriately touched by Pagels when they were girls.

Pagels is owner Downeast Windjammer Cruises which, among other maritime ventures, operates the Bar Harbor based four-masted schooner Margaret Todd and two local ferry services, one between Bar Harbor and Winter Harbor and the other between Southwest Harbor and the Cranberry Isles.

Pagels, through his attorney, Daniel Pileggi, contended in the appeal that evidence of prior “bad acts” by Pagels should not have been allowed and that the superior court mistakenly awarded double damages. In both cases, the supreme judicial court did not agree.

These “bad acts” were introduced by the three witnesses who gave testimony about Pagels alleged sexual assaults of other underage victims. Prior to his trial in superior court, Pagels filed a motion to exclude evidence of this alleged activity. The lower court denied that motion, concluding that the evidence was relevant in order “to show motive, opportunity, pattern, practice and interest in relations with individuals under the age of 18 in the home, office and on boats under [Pagels’] control.”

The supreme judicial court found that the lower court did not err in allowing this evidence to be introduced. The testimony from these women complied with the pretrial order issued by the superior court, justices concluded.

In the Washington County decision, the plaintiff, a relative who said Pagels began molesting her when she was seven- or eight-years-old, was awarded $1.3 million in general damages, $500,000 in punitive damages, almost $33,600 for costs of past medical care and $10,000 for future treatment. That award was arrived at properly, the supreme judicial court found.

During the 2014 trial, the plaintiff testified Pagels sexually assaulted her numerous times during a period of about eight years. The assaults ended, she said, after she reached the age of 15 and took place at Pagels’ home in Cherryfield, at his office, in his vehicle, on boats and at a rented home in Florida.

Pagels claimed the woman’s mental health issues resulted in her fabricating the allegations. However, the trial judge, Justice Donald Alexander, found that her mental health issues were the result of the “years of degradation, sexual assault and rapes” she endured at Pagels’ hands.

Alexander, in his decision, stated that Pagels’ “conduct was so extreme and outrageous as to exceed all possible bounds of decency and must be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable.”

Pagels has not been charged with any criminal conduct related to the civil case.

 

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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