AUGUSTA — A Maine Criminal Justice Academy panel began hearing testimony Tuesday on the issue of whether Mark Sawyer, a retired state trooper who was charged with but not convicted of assaulting his wife, should regain his law enforcement certification.

A felony charge of aggravated domestic assault against Sawyer was dismissed in 2009 after his wife, Michelle, recanted her original testimony that he had lifted her up, beat her head against a kitchen cabinet and thrown her to the floor, breaking her collarbone.

In a police report turned in a couple of days after the alleged incident on March 16, 2009, she wrote that in reality, she had slipped on the kitchen floor in their home in Oakland and tripped over a toy chest, which caused her injury.

Maine Criminal Justice Academy board members – Geoffrey Rushlau, district attorney for Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc and Waldo counties, Col. Joel Wilkinson of the Maine Warden Service and Gary LaPlante of the Department of Corrections – make up the three-member judgment panel. They will determine whether Sawyer’s license will remain revoked.

Sawyer, who retired as a state trooper shortly after the alleged incident, requested the hearing to contest the academy board’s decision in 2009 to revoke his law enforcement license.

Assistant Attorney General William Fisher said he will present enough evidence to the board to justify keeping Sawyer from being recertified.

William McKinley, the attorney for Sawyer, said the burden is on Fisher to convince the panel that an assault occurred, something he doesn’t think is possible.

Michelle Sawyer has since reconciled with her husband, and McKinley said she will testify on his behalf.

Testimony was taken Tuesday from a man who accompanied Michelle Sawyer to the hospital and several law enforcement officials.

The panel twice went into executive session because of the nature of the testimony from two witnesses, including James Luce, head of the Maine State Police internal affairs division.

Fisher argued that the entire proceeding should have remained open to the public, but McKinley and Hearing Officer Jim Smith disagreed. “I am erring on the side of privacy,” Smith said.

Wilkinson and LaPlante voted to agree with Smith, while Rushlau was opposed.

The proceeding will take additional days to complete, but no specific time has been scheduled.

 

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: [email protected]