PORTLAND – A former resident at a juvenile detention center will be prosecuted as an adult for an alleged sex crime against a 5-year-old boy at a state park last summer.

Frank Stewart, 18, was indicted Thursday by a grand jury in Cumberland County Superior Court on a charge of felony unlawful sexual contact. If convicted, he will face as much as 10 years in prison and be required to register for life as a sex offender.

On July 6, Stewart was living at the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland. He was one of eight residents who went on a beach outing with two supervisors. It was only his third trip outside the facility since he was committed to Long Creek in September of 2007.

Stewart has a history of improper sexual conduct with young boys, including an attempted-rape allegation during his stay at Long Creek.

He is now being held in the Cumberland County Jail on $10,000 bail.

According to prosecutors, Stewart went unsupervised to the bathhouse at Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth. He allegedly followed a 5-year-old boy into a stall, where he exposed himself and forced the boy to touch him.

Stewart was three weeks shy of his 18th birthday.

The incident prompted the Maine Department of Corrections to suspend all off-grounds outings for residents of Long Creek and the state’s other juvenile facility, the Mountain View Youth Development Center in Charleston.

Trips also were suspended for adults serving time for sex crimes. Those bans have only recently been lifted.

Stewart was arrested and charged as a juvenile, but the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office asked for his case to be transferred into the adult system. Amy Fairfield, Stewart’s lawyer, opposed that request.

District Court Judge Keith Powers heard arguments on Feb. 25.

Prosecutor Stephen Dassatti argued that the public would be at greater risk if Stewart remained in the juvenile system, because any supervision or mental health treatment would be voluntary after his release at age 21. Also, he would not be required to register as a sex offender.

If Stewart is convicted in the adult system, prosecutors said, his jail sentence will be followed by as much as 12 years of supervised probation.

Fairfield argued for Stewart to stay in the juvenile system. The best way to keep him from offending is to treat him, and the best treatment options are at Long Creek, not in any facility for adults, she said.

Powers sided with the prosecution. His decision was released Thursday, the day Stewart was indicted. As required by the law, Powers considered the seriousness of the crime, characteristics of the juvenile, public safety and dispositional alternatives.

“The court places substantial weight on the severity of the crime, the juvenile’s demonstrated deviant arousal patterns since age 11, and the threat to public safety,” Powers wrote.

“This juvenile has acted dangerously toward young males numerous times in the last several years, despite treatment.”

Powers’ decision also revealed the extent of Stewart’s sexual misconduct.

Stewart was committed to Long Creek because of an incident in a Wal-Mart store, in which he pushed an 8-year-old into a bathroom stall and exposed himself.

While in the custody of Long Creek, Stewart was accused of attempted rape of a younger resident, but he was not formally charged.

He has admitted to sexually abusing six victims, according to Powers’ ruling.

Stewart was a victim of severe and chronic sexual and emotional abuse, and when he was 6 he was placed into the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services.

He has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and pervasive developmental disorder, which falls under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorders.

About a month before the incident at Crescent Beach, Stewart’s treatment team approved him for supervised outings into the community. He went to a restaurant on June 5 and to a farm on June 25. Those were his first trips outside the center since his commitment.

Fairfield said she will contest the criminal charge and will try to get Stewart transferred back to Long Creek for treatment while his case is pending.

“This has been a systemic failure by the state of Maine ever since this child came into this world,” Fairfield said.

“I’m disappointed in the judge’s decision, in large part because I believe he needs the treatment,” she said. “This comes down to the age-old question of do you treat them or do you warehouse them?”

 

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at:

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