AUGUSTA — A week after a court security officer took a cellphone photo of a defense attorney’s notes and emailed it to a prosecutor in an unprecedented breach of protocol, the investigation into the matter continues and the policies followed by court officers remain unchanged.

The officer involved, Sgt. Joel Eldridge, remains on paid administrative leave.

There was no answer to a knock on his door last week, and he offered “no comment at this time” to an initial inquiry about the event and did not respond to a second request.

The policies and procedures of the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office — which are said to mimic those used by judicial marshals — remain unchanged, according to Robert Devlin, Kennebec County administrator.

The courtrooms at the Capital Judicial Center are still staffed by court security personnel and entry screening still takes place.

“We really cannot comment on a personnel matter that is under investigation by the Kennebec County Sheriff,” said Mary Ann Lynch, spokeswoman for the Maine Judicial Branch, late last week. “Since we contract with the Kennebec Sheriff for the court officer services, we do not have personnel policies and procedures. That would be up to the sheriff.”

Devlin said Monday that there may be language in the procedures about confidentiality, but he was still seeking information from the sheriff’s office.

He also said no new directives have been issued with regard to officers taking cellphone photos, but he indicated that all the court security officers know of the county’s response to last week’s breach.

Eldridge took the cellphone photo Feb. 28 in a courtroom at the Capital Judicial Center while the attorneys were in chambers with Judge Eric Walker discussing a case.

Eldridge took the photo of defense attorney Sherry Tash’s notes and emailed the photo to the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Francis Griffin.

Griffin immediately contacted his supervisor, District Attorney Maeghan Maloney, and she called Sheriff Ken Mason.

Griffin also reached out to Tash to tell her what had happened.

It’s unclear why Eldridge took the photo and sent it to Griffin, an action that officials said wasn’t a crime but rather a serious ethical breach and violation of courtroom protocol. Maloney said the information received “was not actually anything helpful to the prosecution.”

The case involved defendant Carl Langston, and his case was resolved that day after he and Tash told Walker they wanted to move forward.

Tash, Maloney, and Walker all indicated Thursday they were shocked and disturbed by the action.

The use of cellphones, pagers and other electronic devices in courtrooms is governed by administrative orders of the court. Generally, only attorneys and those with the judge’s permission can use electronics when a court is in session.

Eldridge has worked for the county since November 1999, when he started as a corrections officer at the jail, according to Devlin.

The county has a contract with the state court system to provide court security. Four full-time officers, including Eldridge, and a dozen part-time officers work at courts in Augusta and Waterville.

“I took immediate action notifying my investigator who does internal investigations for personnel matters,” Mason said Thursday. “Early in the afternoon I placed Sgt. Eldridge on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the internal investigation being conducted by Lt. William Johnson.”

Mason said he told Johnson to take as much time as necessary to do the investigation.

Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at:

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