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Hancock County Prosecutor Admits Wrongdoing, Gets 30-Day Suspension
07/15/2013   Reported By: Jay Field

A Hancock County prosecutor has admitted to a state supreme court judge that she violated Maine Bar Rules in a 2009 rape trial. A disciplinary agreement called for Mary Kellett's law license to be suspended for 30 days. It's the first such sanction for a prosecutor in state history. Justice Ellen Gorman told Kellett she intends to allow her to continue working, as long as she completes training in prosecutorial ethics.

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 Duration:
3:40

The board of overseers of the state bar recommended suspending Kellett late last year and sent their complaint onto the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. More than seven months later, the Hancock County prosecutor took her seat at the defense table in a small courtroom in Portland where a formal hearing on her case had been scheduled.

"All rise please! Hear ye! Hear ye! Supreme Judicial Court is now in session. The Honerable Justice Ellen A. Gorman presiding," cried out the Supreme Judicial Court bailiff.

But before everyone in the courtroom had settled in for the day...a surprise announcement from the judge.

"I understand that counsel have now reached an accommodation, an agreement in this case. They have submitted it for my review," said Ellen Gorman.

As part of the agreement, Kellett, for the first time, publicly owned up to a series of ethical violations in her prosecution of Vladek Filler. Filler was convicted in January 2009 of raping and assaulting his ex-wife. The state supreme court ordered a retrial for Filler in response to the initial allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.

"My rebuttal argument in Mr. Filler's first trial unfairly prejudiced him and resulted in the law court granting a new trail," Kellett said.

Kellett also admitted making improper statements in the Filler trial's closing arguments, unfairly suggesting the defendant had a burden to disprove the charges against him.

"I failed to act with reasonable diligence to provide both automatic and requested discovery, in the form of a written statement by the complaining witness and the recording of a 911 call," she said.

"While I did not intentionally set out to violate the bar rules and the rights of Mr Filler, Kellet continued my actions did violate bar rules and Mr. Filler's rights."

"I made errors in the prosecution of the Vladek Filler case. I accept full responsibility for my misconduct. And I regret the harm my mistakes caused."

A few feet away, the man harmed by Kellett's conduct listened to the prosecutor's mea culpa. Vladek Filler then rose to address the judge, unconvinced by the prosecutor's remorse.

"Attorney Kellett intentionally engaged in misconduct, undermining the administration of justice and my constitutional rights," Filler said.

Filler pleaded with Justice Gorman to disbar Kellett.

"Absent disbarment for her inexcusable and prolific misconduct, the standards for all prosecutors in Maine will effectively be lowered," Filler said.

"Mr. Filler you are in the position of a victim," Gorman said. "If there were anything that could make you whole, believe me, that I would do it. I apologize to you, on behalf of the justice system of Maine."

But Justice Gorman said she would not be disbarring Mary Kellett. A suspension, she told Filler, is a serious sanction.

"It is a sanction that will continue to follow Ms. Kellett for the rest of her life," Gorman said. "Should she decide or be asked to leave the prosecutors office, it would hamper, if not completely preclude, her ability to find practice outside of a prosecutors office."

Kellett and her boss, Hancock Country District Attorney Carletta "Dee" Bessano left the court room through an alternate entrance and did not speak to reporters. But lawyers with the Attorney General's office said, in court, that the Hancock DA's office has already been through lots of ethics training as a result of the Filler case. Justice Gorman is expected to rule later this week that Kellett can continue working, despite her suspension, as long as she continues with the training.

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