Supreme Court asked to overturn sex assault conviction

Man appeals child abuse conviction, sentence

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — A man from Augusta was convicted last year of repeated sexual assaults on a four-year-old girl. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Now, Eric Bard is asking the Maine Supreme Court to throw out his conviction, claiming police didn’t follow the law when they seized the key piece of evidence.

Bard pleaded guilty in the summer of 2015 to 21 counts, including multiple charges of gross sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a child. But, in Tuesday's hearing before the Maine Supreme Court, Bard’s lawyer said police should not have seized a tiny digital chip — called a microSD memory card — when they searched Bard’s room.

The card had come from Bard's cell phone. He had given police permission to search computer devices for child pornography, but Bard’s lawyer, Gina Yamartino, said he did not give permission to take that card. Police did seize it and 10 days later obtained a search warrant to look at the card. Lawyers for both the prosecution and defense said the photos and video on the card were key to Bard's conviction.

Yamartino said Bard had specifically told police he did not want them to take the card, because it had "personal things on it."

Prosecutor Paul Ruscha said police were justified in taking the card. He said their search was for digital storage devices, and the SD card was one if those storage devices. It was found in a small container along with a computer flash drive, which was also seized.

There are two other issues in the appeal: Bard's lawyers claim the trial judge should have found Bard mentally incompetent to stand trial. And, they argue the 50-year sentence was excessive. Even one of the justices commented that the sentence was more severe than those is murder cases.

The state Supreme Court justices will now deliberate. The court typically takes weeks, or even months, to rule on appeals.

Copyright 2016 WCSH


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