Two Biddeford men who were scheduled to stand trial this week on charges of attempted murder have accepted plea agreements to reduced charges that will allow both to go free, one on probation and the other for the time he served while awaiting trial.

The case against Tamer Tilahun, 24, and Jonathan Dowd, 22, was fraught with what their attorneys considered missteps by authorities that led them to call repeatedly for sanctions against the York County District Attorney’s Office, including one motion that is still unresolved.

Tilahun and Dowd were accused of stabbing Derrick Connors, 29, on the Elm Street bridge between Saco and Biddeford on Nov. 21, 2011, then fighting him on the Biddeford side of the bridge. The exchange ended with Tilahun or Dowd hitting Connors in the face with a brick. Witnesses gave differing accounts of who used the knife, who wielded the brick and who initiated the fights.

The case was first scheduled for trial in November in York County Superior Court. The trial was postponed after the defense attorneys, Amy Fairfield and Peter Cyr, discovered that Saco police had failed to turn over audio recordings of key interviews, which they said could have shown that the two men acted in self-defense and that Connors was the aggressor.

Justice Paul Fritzsche granted the lawyers’ first call for sanctions immediately after the audio recordings were released to them, including one recording in which Connors’ girlfriend could be heard yelling racial insults at Tilahun, who is African-American, shortly before the attack.

In his ruling for sanctions, Fritzsche ordered the trial be continued and released Tilahun and Dowd on bail. The two men had spent nearly two years in jail since their arrests.


Fairfield and Cyr called for a second round of sanctions earlier this year, claiming that the District Attorney’s Office had acted “deliberately” and “maliciously” to withhold evidence to bolster what it considered a weak case. A different judge rejected that claim after a hearing in which the lead investigator, Saco police Sgt. Corey Huntress, testified that he thought he had shared the audio recordings with the office before November and that the failure was his unintentional error.

The trial was rescheduled for Monday, but as the date neared, the attorneys met with Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan in plea negotiations overseen by a third judge.

Dowd’s attorney, Cyr, reached an agreement for him on March 13.

Dowd, who had been arrested on a bail violation while he was free, took a plea in which he did not admit any guilt. The plea allowed a fourth judge, Justice Joyce Wheeler, to find him guilty of a lesser charge of felony aggravated assault.

Dowd was sentenced to two years, but was freed because he had already served that long.

Tilahun has remained free since his release last year, and his attorney, Fairfield, filed a third motion for sanctions claiming Saco police had started an unjust witness tampering investigation in connection with the case against her law firm, Fairfield and Associates.


The fate of Fairfield’s third motion remains uncertain, since Tilahun accepted a plea agreement Friday.

He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of reckless conduct, criminal threatening and assault, and no contest to a felony charge of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon.

Tilahun was given credit on the misdemeanor counts for the 700 days he spent in jail. An additional prison term of one year was suspended for a one-year probation sentence. He was given a deferred disposition on the felony charge, so if he stays out of trouble, that count will be dismissed.

“The resolution of Dowd’s and Tilahun’s cases from the state’s position was a fair resolution recognizing the seriousness of the conduct but the uncertainty that any trial brings,” McGettigan said Monday.

Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @scottddolan

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