The lawyer for a man convicted of murdering a sheriff’s deputy three years ago argued before the state’s highest court Tuesday that he should get a new trial because the jury never heard about disciplinary action taken against one of his arresting officers.

John D. Williams arrives for his sentencing in September 2019. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

It is the second time that John D. Williams, who was found guilty in 2019 of murdering Somerset County Sheriff’s Deputy Eugene Cole, has appealed his conviction. He is serving a life sentence, and the Maine Supreme Judicial Court denied his first appeal in 2020.

His lawyer argued Tuesday that prosecutors withheld information that was “crucial” to their case: A Maine State Police trooper was suspended for one day because he did not report that another trooper hit Williams twice during his arrest. Williams was not present during arguments.

The fact that an arresting officer was disciplined for not reporting information to his superiors indicates the officer was “less than credible,” Williams’ attorney, Verne Paradie, said in oral arguments before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

“The disciplinary records would’ve had a significant effect on the credibility of the witnesses who reported or testified at trial regarding the level of assaults … and would give more credibility to our arguments that (the use of force) was much more significant,” Paradie said.

The Maine State Police report against Trooper Tyler Maloon, who testified during Williams’ trial, called for a one-day suspension for not providing “timely notice” to state police of a “potential act of misconduct” by Lt. Glenn Lang, another officer who was present during Williams’ arrest on April 28, 2018. Lang hit Williams twice, according to court records.

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In their Jan. 5 response to Williams’ second appeal, the Maine Attorney General’s Office argued that he is not entitled to a new trial based on the disciplinary report, because Maloon had said during trial testimony that he saw Lang hit Williams.

Cpl. Eugene Cole

“Trooper Maloon’s salient observations – that he observed Lt. Lang hit Williams while handcuffing him – were promptly relayed to Williams in discovery on December 17, 2018, two months prior to the hearing on the motion to suppress and six months prior to trial,” prosecutors wrote.

But Maloon did not initially disclose Lang’s use of force, and instead only filed a Use of Force Report for himself for kneeling on Williams’ legs. Under oath later, Maloon said he observed Lang hitting Williams.

The fact that Maloon didn’t immediately disclose the conduct of other officers indicates he may still be withholding information about officers’ use of force against Williams, Paradie said.

“Mr. Williams said, ‘They beat the S out of me. They kicked me in the face. They booted me,’ ” Paradie said.

Attorneys for Williams only learned of the disciplinary report “well after (Williams’) conviction and the denial of his appeal” from a member of the media who obtained the report through a public records request. Under questioning from supreme court justices, Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin said her office was also unaware of the state police report at the time of trial.

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“The Attorney General’s Office did not know about the discipline report until attorney Paradie told us about it,” Robbin told the court Tuesday.

Robbin said it was up to state police to disclose the report to both parties. However, she said, state police are only obligated to share reports that might affect one of their officers’ credibility. Robbin argued the report doesn’t do that.

In addition, Maloon was initially only asked about his own use of force; no one asked before he was under oath whether he witnessed use of force by other officers, Robbin said.

“It was not unreasonable for him to believe other officers were reporting their own use of force,” Robbin said.

The Cumberland County Superior Court had already rejected Williams’ second appeal in September 2021, writing that it was difficult to “understand how Trooper Maloon’s discipline for violating an internal reporting process within State Police could be considered … relevant or admissible at trial.” A superior court justice also wrote that it was unlikely the trial would’ve gone differently had the defense known about the disciplinary report against Maloon.

Supreme court justices asked Paradie the same question Tuesday. But they also asked Robbin why the evidence wasn’t part of Williams’ trial.

“That Trooper Maloon was willing to put his own career at risk, by failing to rat out one of his compatriots, would’ve been a useful piece of information for the defense at trial,” said Justice Ellen Gorman. “Had the defense known that he did in fact receive discipline for being unwilling to explain what Lt. Lang had done, that would have been useful. I don’t know how useful, but it would’ve been useful.”

The court said Tuesday they will take the matter under advisement and issue a decision on Williams’s appeal at a later date.


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