AUGUSTA — After 33 years on the job, the last 12 months as acting district attorney in Kennebec and Somerset counties, prosecutor Alan Kelley retired Monday from his state job.
Maeghan Maloney, most recently a legislator from Augusta, was elected Nov. 6 to be district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties for the next two years and was sworn in Tuesday by Augusta City Councilor Patrick Paradis. A formal swearing-in ceremony with other Kennebec County officials is set for noon Friday in the county commissioners’ office.
Maloney said she wanted to be sworn in as soon as possible to enable her to participate in a district attorneys’ conference Friday morning.
“I need to get started right away,” she said. “Most of the work I’ve been doing since the election has been recruitment and interviews and working on personnel issues. It enables us to hit the ground running with people in place, which was really important to me.”
One of her first recruits is Fernand LaRochelle, who spent 30 years prosecuting homicides as an assistant attorney general in Maine.
“He has the highest courtroom skills,” Maloney said. “I feel very fortunate he will be working here. He’s a tremendous trial attorney.”
Also, Kate Marshall, of Brunswick, who had been a student attorney with the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office, is joining the ranks in the Kennebec-Somerset district on Monday.
Collectively, Kennebec and Somerset counties make up prosecutorial District IV. In 2011 — the last year for which full-year figures are available — the district handled almost 8,000 criminal cases, 850 of which were probation violations.
The district attorney’s office saw drastic changes in personnel in 2012. Nine of the 11 attorneys who started the year were gone by the end of it. However, it appears the prosecutor’s office will be fully staffed by the end of Maloney’s first week in office.
Kelley, 62, had been the go-to trial attorney for years in Kennebec County, taking on difficult cases involving the more serious crimes and specializing in prosecuting people charged with sexual abuse of children. He lost the Democratic nod for the office to Maloney this summer and had indicated he would be gone by year’s end.
“I came to the conclusion it’s time to go,” he said. “What I regret most is the loss of the dedicated people that shared that passion for what we do. It’s unfortunate.”
In all, nine lawyers, including Kelley and former District Attorney Evert Fowle, who became a judge, left the office this year. They took with them a combined 145 years of experience.
Some attorneys remained, albeit in different roles, and Kelley hired several new prosecutors before leaving, consulting with Maloney so he could assure the newcomers they would keep their jobs when she took office.
A new job
Six long file boxes holding Kelley’s personal papers from 33 years, a thick brown briefcase, and a few other items were stacked next to the door of his office, ready for removal. Just outside his windows, a pile-driver rhythmically pounded steel supports for a new courthouse.
Kelley is not moving far. After a month or so off, he’ll begin work a couple of blocks up Winthrop Street as an assistant bar counsel at the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar, an independent agency that oversees “conduct of lawyers as officers of the court.”
His job duties there, he said, will be similar to the decisions he’s made for more than three decades: “Decide whether someone has done something wrong; decide whether we can prove it; and if we can, decide what should be done about it.”
In the new job, his focus will be on whether the behavior was ethical.
For years, the office headed by District Attorneys David Crook and Evert Fowle made prosecuting crimes involving sexual abuse of children a high priority.
“I probably tried more of those cases than anybody else in the state,” Kelley said. “Protection of children has always been a passion. They’re very difficult cases to prove. So often it’s the type of crime that is not committed in front of other witnesses. It’s very difficult to corroborate and very difficult for children to talk about what’s happened to them.”
He cited the office’s role in helping to establish the Children’s Advocacy Center, located at MaineGeneral Medical Center’s Seton campus in Waterville, which provides support for children who are victims of sexual abuse.
Two of his more memorable cases involved Daniel Fortune and Leo Hylton, two Augusta men who were prosecuted following a 2008 home invasion in Pittston that left former state legislator William Guerrette and his then-10-year-old daughter maimed and other family members terrorized. Fortune was convicted of four counts of aggravated attempted murder and other charges, and Hylton pleaded guilty to three counts of attempted murder.
Kelley recalled “how glad I am that Fortune and Hylton were held accountable.”
At a recent retirement dinner — a surprise to Kelley — organizers collected 81 law court opinions in which he argued on behalf of the state. “It was kind of a shock to look back and see that body of work,” he said.
Some things will not change. Kelley, of West Gardiner, will continue to muck out horse stalls each day. He and his wife, Beth, run Shamrock Stables, which has seven quarter horses. The Kelleys participate in team penning and ranch sorting, and they host clinics at their barn.
He is also president of the Central Maine Team Penning Association.
Kelley got into riding about a decade ago at the urging of his wife. “You’ve got to love it, because it’s a lot of work,” he said.
He and his wife have three children and one grandson.
Betty Adams — 621-5631