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Panel Recommends that Maine Prosecutor be Suspended
12/10/2012   Reported By: Susan Sharon

Assistant Hancock County District Attorney Mary Kellett is being recommended for suspension by a panel of the Maine Board of Bar Overseers. Created by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, the board governs the conduct of lawyers. As Susan Sharon reports, Kellett will next face a disciplinary hearing in front of a single justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court for, among other things, "engaging in conduct unworthy of an attorney."

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Following a two-day disciplinary hearing in October, a panel of three attorneys found that Kellett violated Maine Bar Rules by failing to make timely disclosure of the existence of evidence, suppressing evidence, trying to mislead a jury, failing to employ resonable skill and care, engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and engaging in conduct unworthy of an attorney.

Kellett's counsel, Ronald Lupton of the Maine Attorney General's Office, says this is the first time he's aware of a Maine prosecutor being recommended for suspension. Lupton declined to comment on the matter further, saying his office had just been made aware of the Board of Bar Overseers' findings.

The action against Kellett stems from the 2009 trial of a former Gouldsboro man acquitted of the rape of his wife. Vladek Filler claimed that Kellett broke a series of bar rules when she prosecuted him. He maintained that his wife fabricated the rape charge in order to try to win custody of their two boys.

In the Board of Bar Overseers report on the case, the panel acknowledges that Kellett has no prior disciplinary record, that she is an experienced prosecutor and that she had a heavy caseload at the time of the alleged rape. The panel also noted that Kellett's own expert testified during her hearing that she appeared "stubborn" and as if she were "bucking the court" during her testimony.
The three attorneys found that Kellett's then-supervisor failed to comply with Maine Bar Rules by sanctioning Kellett's conduct and by disregarding ethical concerns raised by another attorney about her behavior. But they also acknowledged that they do not have vast experience in the criminal arena, and Penobscot County District Attorney Chris Almy says that's a disadvantage.

"Well, I think that from the perspective of a prosecutor, I'm sure that this is pretty devastating to, not just to Mary Kellett and the DA's Office in Hancock County, but to all of us, because our job is a difficult one and we make a lot of split-second decisions. So when you have people reviewing our conduct that have less than a large familiarity with what we do, it puts us at a disadvantage - and I say that in all due respect to the finders here, to the people who made a decision."

Kellett's case will now be forwarded to a single justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, who will hold a second hearing to decide whether or not Kellett should be suspended. Until then, Almy says it's likely to be awkward for Kellett to continue her work in her office, which Almy says is already shorthanded.

Calls to the Hancock County District Attorney's Office were not returned by airtime.


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