Friday, December 13, 2013
PORTLAND – A former Westbrook teacher assistant has been charged with sexually abusing a teenage student, and a Westbrook school board member is accused of obstructing the investigation.
2005 Staff File Photo
School Committee member and longtime public official Suzanne Joyce said she had no idea she had been indicted, or why, and neither the Westbrook Police Department nor the Cumberland County District Attorney's Office would say Tuesday what Joyce is specifically accused of doing.
Joyce was indicted by a Cumberland County grand jury on a charge of hindering the apprehension or prosecution of Dereck Gilman, who worked at Westbrook Middle School as a special-education technician before resigning last month, according to information from the District Attorney's Office and Westbrook School Department.
Gilman, 24, of 162 Central St., Westbrook, also was indicted by the grand jury on charges of unlawful sexual touching and sexual abuse of a child. He is accused of engaging in sexual acts with a 17-year-old student from May 1, 2012, to Jan. 30, 2013, while he was an official in the school district.
Joyce, reached by telephone late Tuesday afternoon while she was driving, said she was "shocked" to hear that she had been indicted.
"It's mind-boggling to hear," she said. "This is the first I heard of it."
She said she felt so upset she needed to pull over.
"These allegations are very false, and this is very upsetting," she said.
Westbrook police Capt. Thomas Roth said Tuesday that his department did not investigate the case against Joyce and that the charge was brought forward by the District Attorney's Office.
But the prosecutor assigned to the case, Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Ackerman, said the case was investigated jointly by the Westbrook police and the District Attorney's Office. She declined to comment further on the case.
Joyce, 51, of 231 Hardy Road, has served on the school board since 2010 and previously served for more than eight years on the Westbrook City Council.
Joyce and Gilman are scheduled to be arraigned on the charges June 4 in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court.
Reached Tuesday afternoon, Westbrook Superintendent of Schools Marc Gousse said he did not know that Joyce had been indicted before hearing about it from the Portland Press Herald, and that he had received no word from the District Attorney's Office.
Gousse confirmed that Gilman has resigned from the school department, but declined to comment specifically on the accusations against him.
He said Gilman resigned effective April 1, and that he had sent a memo to the School Committee on April 5 informing the members of his resignation.
School Committee Chairman Jim Violette said he was aware of the case against Gilman but thought it had been resolved with Gilman's resignation. Violette said he only learned of the indictment against Joyce after receiving a phone call from the superintendent.
"This is something that we just found out about," Violette said. "I've really got no comment on anything until we have more information, but everyone is innocent until proven guilty."
Violette said he expects Joyce will be allowed to continue serving on the School Committee, but he doesn't know what the indictment will mean for her eventual role on the panel.
Because of the newness of the charges against Joyce and Gilman, the clerk's office had not created a file for either of their cases until late Tuesday afternoon, and made those files available just before court offices closed for the day.
The few papers in each of their files contained little additional information. The prosecutor filed a motion in each, seeking to have Joyce and Gilman tried together. The records do not list attorneys for either Joyce or Gilman. Neither of them has a previous criminal record.
The indictment against Joyce further accuses her of obstructing Andrew Keirstead, another Westbrook teacher assistant, "by force, intimidation or deception" from acting to "aid in the discovery, apprehension, prosecution or conviction of Dereck Gilman."
Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at: