ELLSWORTH — Police discovered thousands of videos depicting the sexual abuse of minors on electronic devices in the possession of former gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler, new court records show.

Cutler, 75, faces four counts of possession of sexually explicit material depicting children under 12, but it’s likely that more counts will follow based on new information released Tuesday in Ellsworth Superior Court following the first hearing in the case.

The affidavit for arrest details how the case was forwarded to the Maine State Police computer crimes unit on Jan. 5, about a month after file-hosting service Dropbox flagged a single file allegedly uploaded by Cutler. A Dropbox employee viewed it and determined it depicted a girl probably between the ages of 4 and 6 being sexually assaulted by an adult man. The company then sent the tip to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which forwarded it to the Maine State Police.

Eliot R. Cutler, 75, shown in 2014, has been charged with four counts of possession of sexually explicit material depicting minors under 12. Press Herald photo

The investigation led to a search of Cutler’s homes in Brooklin and Portland in late March. At the oceanfront farm in Brooklin, police found Cutler and his wife, Melanie, who was recuperating from an injury with her leg propped up.

“Mr. Cutler told his wife that the search warrant was for child pornography and we would probably find some on one of his computers,” wrote Maine State Police Special Agent Glenn Lang. “This statement was recorded.”

Cutler was not present for Tuesday’s hearing because of an emergency COVID-19 rule that permitted him not to attend.



Cutler’s attorney, Walt McKee of Augusta, successfully argued that Cutler should be permitted to use the internet if he agrees to a stringent monitoring system that he will have to pay for. The monitoring and compliance system is run by a Pennsylvania company, IPPC Technologies Inc., that specializes in probation and parole monitoring systems for people accused of sex crimes.

Cutler will be permitted to use one phone and one laptop computer on which the third-party software will be installed. If Cutler views or downloads sexually explicit material, an automatic alert will be sent to a professional evaluator connected to another company, Ran Consulting, of Pennsylvania. The evaluator will be responsible for reviewing the automatic report. If the material is determined to contain sexually explicit material, an alert will be sent to McKee and to prosecutors, McKee said.

The real-time monitoring will be supplemented by a comprehensive weekly review of Cutler’s internet use to ensure that no data has been missed by the automated technology that generates the alerts, McKee said.

Hancock County Deputy District Attorney Toff Toffolon took no position on the proposed monitoring, but he noted that such monitoring is not typically available to other defendants in state cases who face similar charges. Toffolon said that if Cutler breaks the rules and accesses sexual material, the state will move swiftly to revoke his bail and jail him pending trial.

“We will state categorically and emphatically that if Mr. Cutler’s motion is granted and he again pursues legitimate interests on the internet, that’s fine. But the investigation has revealed thus far what appears to the state as a longstanding, untreated and severe addiction to child pornography, and the state’s experience with people in that position is that they cannot control their impulses.”


Before the case can proceed, the investigation will have to be presented to a grand jury, which will evaluate whether to indict Cutler. It’s unclear when the grand jury will hear the case, and typically grand juries sit only once a month.


Justice Robert Murray set a preliminary date of July 21 for the next court hearing – a dispositional conference – on the assumption that the grand jury will decide on charges before that date. If he is indicted, Cutler will have to enter a plea.

Cutler, formerly of Cape Elizabeth, ran twice unsuccessfully for governor, and had a lengthy and successful law career following stints as a policy adviser to President Jimmy Carter and Sen. Edmund Muskie.

The case is being investigated by the Maine State Police computer crimes unit, which received the tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children late last year that Cutler had uploaded a single file of child exploitation material.

Under federal law, technology companies must report any illegal content they discover on their networks, and most large platforms use automated software that quietly scours every file or image their users upload.


The national center is designated by statute to process tips from technology companies including Facebook, Google, Snapchat, Cloudflare and others about users who are suspected of possessing illegal images or videos. The center then passes those tips to police across the country for investigation.

Cutler has declined to comment on the charges against him, and McKee said the $50,000 cash bail imposed after his March 25 arrest was excessive.

The four counts are Class C felonies, each punishable by up to five years in prison. The district attorney who charged him, Matt J. Foster, said at the time that detectives had identified 10 files of sexually exploitative material depicting children that police had seen before in other cases.

The affidavit of probable cause offers the clearest view into the state police’s work. A total of 11 federal, state and local officers swarmed Cutler’s farm. No one answered the door, so police entered through the unlocked front door and announced themselves, according to Lang’s affidavit.


Police found Cutler on the first floor, along with his wife, Melanie, who was in bed recovering from surgery, covered by blankets, with one foot elevated, Lang wrote. After Cutler told his wife what the police were looking for, he waited at the kitchen table and attempted to call his attorney as agents seized dozens of electronic devices.


In an upstairs bedroom, police found a sleep apnea machine along with digital media storage devices such as USB drives, flash drives and external hard drives. Cutler told one agent he had been sleeping upstairs in the room with the sleep apnea machine.

Outside the home, state police had two computer forensic examiners download the flash drives and storage devices found in the bedroom. Immediately, one of the analysts discovered “a very large number” of child exploitation videos, including videos of girls estimated to be about 4 years old being sexually assaulted.

Cutler asked if police would leave him his cellphone, and later told them they would not find anything on it, but the police seized it anyway. At one point, Cutler told investigators there was no use in searching the kitchen area.

The day after the search, analysts began to sift through the terabytes of information. The compact flash drives that had been seized from the bedroom contained “literally thousands of very young children being sexually abused.”

The analysts provided a sample of file names, including with each the rough age of the child depicted and graphic descriptions of the content, including the acronym PTHC, which stands for “preteen hard core,” the affidavit said.

“I feel that because Mr. Cutler’s high volume of very young child pornography and extreme wealth while facing a felony prosecution he is a very high flight risk,” Lang wrote. He asked that Cutler’s passport be seized, a request the judge did not grant.

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