Prosecutors in Oxford County are dropping two sexual assault charges against Zachariah Sherburne after determining that the 23-year-old former education technician at Sacopee Valley High School had left his job there and no longer had disciplinary authority over a teenage student at the school when they had a sexual encounter.

Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Winter said Friday that she planned to file the dismissal of the charges with the Oxford County court by the end of the day after reviewing information provided by Sherburne’s attorney that proved Sherburne had stopped working for the district the day before he and the girl had sex late on Feb. 12 or early on Feb. 13.

Winter said the information was included in a court motion filed this week by Sherburne’s attorney and was not available when Sherburne was indicted in April.

Sherburne had been facing one charge each of gross sexual assault, a felony, and sexual abuse of a minor, a misdemeanor. Sherburne engaged in a sexual act with a female student who was 16 or 17 years old, according to an affidavit by the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department in February.

The age of consent is 16 in Maine, but Sherburne had been charged under Maine’s gross sexual assault law because one of the criteria listed in the statute is having “supervisory or disciplinary authority” over a student in a school setting.

Allan Lobozzo, Sherburne’s attorney, said his client’s family was relieved at the outcome after being put through a gantlet of media scrutiny after Sherburne’s indictment and the subsequent revelation that he had been hired as an ed tech by his father, School Administrative District 6 Superintendent Frank Sherburne, in violation of the district’s nepotism policy. The uproar over the hiring eventually led Frank Sherburne to resign as SAD 6 superintendent on May 16.

Lobozzo filed a motion to dismiss the sexual assault case Monday, including Zachariah Sherburne’s undated resignation email and a confirmation by the SAD 55 superintendent that Feb. 12 was Sherburne’s last day of work. Lobozzo said after the court appearance this week that Sherburne had in fact finished his work at the district a day earlier, on Feb. 11.

“Obviously Zach and the family are ecstatic,” Lobozzo said. “There’s been so much of a media feeding frenzy. At least from a legal standpoint this is good news. I was getting hate mail and hate phone calls.”

The teenage girl is now pregnant. Lobozzo said that if the child is Sherburne’s, he will “participate financially,” but confirmed that Sherburne and the girl are not in a relationship.

“Was it a smart decision? No,” Lobozzo said. “But was it consensual, and was she of the age of consent? Yes.”

After Sherburne left Sacopee Valley High School, he was hired as an ed tech in SAD 6 in Buxton. The hiring violated the district’s nepotism policy barring the hiring of family members of the superintendent or members of the school board.

The SAD 6 board, rather than enforce its policy, chose to take no action against Sherburne, drawing intense criticism from the public and scrutiny from the press, including the revelation that Zachariah Sherburne did not have state approval to work in a classroom environment.

After weeks of rancorous debate and confrontational board meetings where angry parents called for Frank Sherburne’s ouster, the elder Sherburne resigned with a $40,000 severance package – a move considered to be less costly than breaking Sherburne’s contract and dealing with the related litigation expenses later, the SAD 6 board president said.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

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