AUGUSTA — Opening statements were made Tuesday in the trial of a Sidney man who faces 21 charges, including rape and sexual exploitation of a 4-year-old girl.
Defense attorney Ronald Bourget warned jurors in Kennebec County Superior Court that they would see “terrible pictures, terrible videos” in connection with the case. He asked jurors to keep an open mind, saying that his client, Eric L. Bard, 24, has an abnormal condition of mind and lower intelligence than they have. He said at least one psychologist would testify about Bard’s mental limitations, signaling a defense that Bard didn’t understand the wrongfulness of his actions.
“Mr. Bard only has so much aptitude; he only has so much cognitive ability,” Bourget said in his opening statement. “He suffers from pervasive developmental disorder.”
The prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Paul Rucha, already had told the jurors in his opening argument that they would see disturbing images of an adult engaging in a sexual assault on a young girl. Rucha outlined the elements of the offense the state says Bard committed, including the gross sexual assault charges. In this case, Rucha said, Bard was 22 and the victim 4. Because the victim was under 12, the crime is a Class A offense carrying a maximum penalty of 30 years.
“The defendant knew that having child pornography would get him in trouble,” Rucha said.
Rucha said the child would not testify during the trial, but her mother planned to take the stand. Rucha said Bard identified the girl in the photos for police and said he used to baby-sit for her.
Jurors spent little more than an hour in the courtroom before lunch Tuesday, hearing first the indictment, then the two opening statements and finally testimony from two witnesses. The jury – 10 women and four men, including two alternates – returned for a few minutes after lunch to hear the judge send them home at 2:45 p.m.
Previously, Bard had pleaded not guilty and not criminally responsible to all 21 charges in the indictment against him, most of which carry 30-year maximum prison terms. He is accused of sexually assaulting the child he was baby-sitting in 2011 and 2012 and of recording the acts on his cellphone.