A York County jury has sided with Mainely Media in a lawsuit over a weekly newspaper’s stories about sexual abuse allegations against a former Biddeford police officer.

The civil trial ended Wednesday with a unanimous verdict in favor of the newspaper group and two former employees. The case focused on articles published in the Biddeford-Saco-Old Orchard Beach Courier in spring 2015.

“The plaintiffs not only sued the newspaper but the reporters individually in an attempt to scare them and to chill their speech,” said Cynthia Counts, an Atlanta attorney who represented the defendants. “The jury’s unanimous verdict not only exonerates the newspaper and its reporters, but also helps vindicate those teenagers (now men) who never had the chance to present their claims of sexual abuse before a judge and jury.”

The former police officer, Norman Gaudette, and his wife filed their lawsuit for compensatory and punitive damages on six claims, including defamation. In 2019, Superior Court Justice John O’Neil dismissed some claims and allowed others to continue to jury trial. That trial took place in March at York County Superior Court in Alfred and lasted more than two weeks.

Court records show all nine jurors found the Gaudettes did not prove at trial that the allegations in the articles were false, so the remaining claims in the lawsuit failed. Gene Libby, the attorney who represented the Gaudettes in this lawsuit, did not respond to an email or a voicemail Friday afternoon. The plaintiffs can appeal the verdict.

O’Neil outlined the details of the case in his 2019 order. He wrote that at least five people accused Gaudette of sexual crimes in 1990, and the Biddeford Police Department put him on administrative leave while the Maine Attorney General’s Office conducted an investigation that did not result in criminal charges. Gaudette has denied the allegations against him.


The claims resurfaced in 2014, when a Biddeford native said another former officer, Stephen Dodd, had sexually assaulted him years earlier when he was a teenager. In the wake of those public accusations, other men came forward with accusations against Dodd and Gaudette. The judge wrote that two staff members at the Courier began investigating those allegations and published multiple stories in early 2015.

Counts, the newspaper’s attorney, said Gaudette returned from administrative leave and continued to work for the Biddeford Police Department until he retired in 2001. Neither Dodd nor Gaudette faced criminal charges, but four people filed federal civil rights lawsuits related to those allegations. Two cases named Gaudette as a defendant, and both are still open in the U.S. District Court of Maine. Counts said witnesses at this trial included three accusers, who gave emotional testimony about their experiences.

Mainely Media publishes the Courier, Scarborough Leader, Kennebunk Post and South Portland Sentry, which are distributed for free to homes across Cumberland and York counties. The newspaper group has been owned since 2018 by Reade Brower, who also owns the Portland Press Herald. The previous owner was the Sample News Group, which is headquartered in Pennsylvania.

The individual defendants named in the lawsuit were Molly Lovell Keely and Ben Meiklejohn. Keely was the managing editor, and Meiklejohn was a staff writer. Neither still works at Mainely Media.

Comments are not available on this story.