AUGUSTA — The Maine Attorney General’s Office has concluded there is insufficient evidence to prosecute a convicted sex offender and his wife for letters sent to jurors after his trial concluded in Hancock County Unified Criminal Court.
According to Lisa Marchese, chief of the criminal division of the Attorney General’s Office, Benjamin Hodgdon II and his wife, Hilary Hodgdon, became the subjects of an investigation after jurors in his March trial received the letters and notified Ellsworth police.
“The investigation showed they were the people who sent the letters to jurors,” Marchese said this week.
Marchese said there were no overt threats made in the letters.
“The intent of the letter, in my view, was to suggest that the jury got it wrong,” she said.
The reactionsof the jurors varied.
“Some of them felt that they were somewhat threatened,” Marchese said. “Others thought it was silly or stupid.”
The decision not to prosecute was based on the fact that the trial had ended and jurors had been dismissed, Marchese said.
“If the jury had not been dismissed, this would have been an entirely different case,” she said.
The three-day trial ended March 16 with the jury finding Hodgdon guilty of gross sexual assault, unlawful sexual contact and sexual abuse of a minor for assaulting a young female student while he was a teacher at the Tremont Consolidated School. The first juror to come forward reported receiving a letter on May 12.
Marchese said it is unclear how the Hodgdons obtained the names and addresses of the jurors. The Attorney General’s Office takes any attempt to influence a jury seriously, and sending the letters was clearly inappropriate, she said.
“They shouldn’t have contacted any of the jurors,” Marchese said. “Jurors are the backbone of the criminal justice system and shouldn’t have to deal with unwanted contact.”
Under Maine law, jury tampering is a Class C felony unless the case involves a Class A crime, and then the charge is elevated to Class B. Because Hodgdon faced and was convicted of Class A gross sexual assault, a person convicted of jury tampering during that trial would have faced up to 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine.
Hodgdon was sentenced on Aug. 11 to 11 years in prison, with all but three and a half years suspended on the gross sexual assault charge. He also was sentenced to serve concurrent three-year sentences on the charges of unlawful sexual contact and sexual abuse of a minor. Upon his release, Hodgdon is to serve six years probation, with conditions, and become a lifetime registrant on the Maine Sex Offender Registry.
Hodgdon remains free on bail while he appeals to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.