ALFRED — The trial opened Monday for a former guard at a York County pre-release center who is charged with sexually assaulting a female prisoner at the facility.

Joshua Dall-Leighton, 34, faces five counts of gross sexual assault and one of unlawful sexual contact. The indictment says that Dall-Leighton had supervisory or disciplinary authority over the alleged victim. All are felonies, and he has pleaded not guilty.

His lawyer immediately attacked the accuser, using his opening statement to repeatedly mention her criminal record, the delay in her report of sexual contact and a lawsuit she filed against the former guard and others seeking financial damages.

“You won’t see DNA evidence,” attorney Neal Weinstein said. “You won’t see any rape kit evidence. You remember Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, and she had a stain. That’s corroborating evidence that proves something happened. There’s nothing in this case.”

The prosecutor outlined the evidence against Dall-Leighton, which includes witness testimony, documents and text message conversations between the defendant and his alleged victim.

“We’ll expect that you’ll return a verdict of guilty on all counts,” said York County Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan.

Twelve jurors and two alternates sat in the jury box. Four were women; 10 were men.

The indictment says the alleged crimes happened on multiple days from December 2015 to February 2016. During that time, Dall-Leighton worked at a pre-release center for female inmates in Alfred. The Southern Maine Re-entry Center has since moved to Windham.

Joshua Dall-Leighton appears in court Monday, the first day of his trial. Dall-Leighton is accused of sexually assaulting a female inmate in his charge at the Southern Maine Re-entry Center in Alfred. Press Herald photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

An affidavit filed in York County Superior Court by a Maine Department of Corrections detective describes alleged sexual encounters between the guard and the woman in a prison transport van. Dall-Leighton drove the van to take the woman to her workplace in Sanford, according to the affidavit.

The first day of testimony revealed little new information about the allegations against Dall-Leighton. The trial began with several witnesses who worked for the Department of Corrections at the time of the alleged crimes.

One was Jennifer Needham, the unit manager at the pre-release center in Alfred, where the victim was incarcerated. Needham described the operation and policies of the facility, which allows women to go to work and school and home on furlough as they near the end of their sentences.

She said corrections officers are not allowed to have sexual contact with prisoners, share personal phone numbers or communicate with the women outside of the facility. If a woman makes a complaint against a guard, she would typically be transferred to Maine Correctional Center in Windham to separate the parties during the investigation, Needham said. She said the guard could continue working, even though the woman would lose privileges, including her job in the community.

The prosecution also entered evidence that included the log books for the prison transport van, the timesheet from the woman’s workplace, a transcript of text messages between the two and photographs of four locations where the sexual contact allegedly took place.

Testimony was interrupted by frequent objections from both sides and multiple private conferences with the lawyers and the judge.

The alleged victim herself did not testify on the first day of the trial, which is scheduled to continue through Thursday. The Portland Press Herald does not name the victims of alleged sex crimes without their consent.

Dall-Leighton, who appeared in the courtroom in a gray suit jacket and khaki pants, spoke only at the beginning of the day to turn down the state’s final plea offer.

McGettigan told District Court Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz that the state’s last offer in February was a plea to just one count of gross sexual assault. In exchange, he would have been sentenced to four years in prison with all but one year suspended, and required to register as a sex offender for life.

“What is your position with respect to that offer?” the judge asked Dall-Leighton.

“To reject the offer, sir,” Dall-Leighton responded.

Dall-Leighton stopped working at the pre-release center when he was charged, his defense lawyer told the Press Herald at the time.

Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan speaks in court Monday in the trial of Joshua Dall-Leighton. Press Herald photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

The woman was convicted in January 2012 in Rockland of elevated aggravated assault, robbery and burglary. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison with all but six years suspended. Now 34 years old, she has been released and is on probation.

The affidavit quoted a letter the woman wrote to a Bangor attorney describing the advances of an officer at the pre-release center. She said she eventually became intoxicated so she would be transferred from the Southern Maine Re-entry Center in Alfred back to the more strict Maine Correctional Facility in Windham to get away from him.

“I avoided sexual intercourse with this officer for some time but because of his position of power, and the many things I stood to lose, I felt pressured to engage,” she wrote. “This officer transported me to work several times per week and we were often alone while driving. I requested a job change, but was repeatedly denied. I felt I was in a no-win situation.”

She eventually also filed a lawsuit in 2017 against Dall-Leighton, as well as the state and prison officials she said failed to protect her from the assaults. The former guard did not respond to the complaint, meaning he was in default. A federal judge then ordered him to pay $1.1 million to the former inmate, although it is not clear if he can or will pay that sum. Details from the civil case may factor into the criminal trial, and Weinstein repeatedly referred to her civil attorney as “her money attorney,” finally prompting an objection by the prosecutor.

Dall-Leighton received widespread media attention in June 2015 for donating a kidney to a woman who advertised her need for a new organ in the back window of her car. That gift of his kidney to a virtual stranger also may play a role in his trial.

Among the motions filed in the case is a request by the state to keep that information from the jury. The defense objected, saying it was evidence of his character. It was not yet clear how the judge had ruled on that motion and others.

Testimony will continue Tuesday morning in York County Superior Court.

Megan Gray can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:
[email protected]
Twitter: mainemegan

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: