DA declines to retry sexual assault case

ELLSWORTH District Attorney Matt Foster has decided against trying for a second time the case of a Tremont man whose gross sexual assault conviction was vacated April 15 by the Maine Supreme Court. Ineffective counsel was cited as the reason the conviction was vacated.

Ben Hodgdon’s two other convictions, one for unlawful sexual contact and one for sexual abuse of a minor, were vacated by the court in March of 2020.

Foster released a statement announcing his decision on May 27.

Ben Hodgon.

In the statement, Foster said he reiterates his belief that Hodgdon did commit the crimes for which he was convicted and expressed his support for the victim but said there is little to be gained by a retrial since Hodgdon has already served the 42-month prison sentence that was imposed.

Foster cited the “tremendous backlog of cases awaiting trials due to the suspension of jury operations during the pandemic.”

He also said and it was his opinion that a retrial “would likely take years to complete, keeping the trauma fresh in the victim’s mind during that time.”

Hodgdon, a former Tremont Consolidated School teacher, was tried in 2016 for alleged incidents with a student during the 1999-2000 school year.

Foster expressed his admiration for the victim, who he characterized as a “strong and able woman, who is committed to ensuring that others in her situation are protected.”

In his statement, Foster “encouraged her, as well as other victims of sexual abuse, to reach out to their legislators in an effort to strengthen the laws protecting all victims of sexual abuse.”

During his trial, Hodgdon, 53, was represented by the late David Van Dyke. Attorney David Weyrens has represented Hodgdon since 2018.

“Ben Hodgdon has always maintained his innocence,” Weyrens said in a press release. “He welcomes the Hancock County district attorney’s decision not to pursue a retrial and to dismiss all charges against him. Ben has fought for years to prove his innocence and clear his name. Today he stands with no criminal record and no charges pending against him — an innocent man. I wish to congratulate Ben and his family on this hard earned, joyful day.”

Hodgdon was released from prison last summer.

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.

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