Eric Bard, formerly of Sidney, charged with the sexual assault of a child he was babysitting, is flanked by his attorneys during a hearing Jan. 5, 2015, at Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta. Bard on Friday pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the crime. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA — A Sidney man tried and convicted of child rape charges who later had his case overturned now faces a new trial after pleading not criminally responsible by reason of insanity Friday.

Eric Bard, 32, pleaded guilty in August 2014 and was convicted on 21 counts, including gross sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a minor, in connection with the sexual assault of a 4-year-old girl he was babysitting. Bard also recorded the acts on his cellphone, prosecutors said.

He was sentenced to 50 years in prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised release. But his attorneys appealed his case to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled in favor of his appeal and granted him a new trial.

The court ruled Bard was deprived of due process because the judge in the first trial, Superior Court Justice Donald Marden, improperly met during the trial with District Attorney Maeghan Maloney without a lawyer for the defense present. Marden had requested to meet with Maloney, who is the district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties.

Superior Court Justice Donald Marden speaks during Eric Bard’s sentencing on July 24, 2015, in the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta. Kennebec Journal file photo by Joe Phelan

As his second trial on the same charges moves forward, Bard, at the Capital Judicial Center on Friday, pleaded not criminally responsible by reason of insanity through his new attorney, John Pelletier.

His defense team sought to take that approach in his first trial as well, arguing that Bard has a developmental disorder and was unable to assist them in his own defense and should be found incompetent to stand trial. But Marden in 2014 ruled that Bard was competent to stand trial.


Now, with Superior Court Justice Daniel Billings presiding over the case about a decade after the alleged offenses occurred, the question of Bard’s mental competency will again be reviewed by the court.

Billings accepted Bard’s plea Friday and said the court would enter an order to have Bard’s competency reviewed by the State Forensic Service. He said the court would see what the State Forensic Service recommends, regarding whether to start anew with a completely new evaluation of Bard’s competency, or review it as an update to the previous evaluation.

Prosecutor Paul Rucha, an assistant attorney general, suggested  that because it has been so long since the first evaluation Billings should note, to the forensic service, that a previous evaluation had been done.

Billings said forensic service officials are likely to remember the case, but he would do that. He said if either Bard’s defense team or state prosecutors object to whichever method the forensic service recommends, then the court can review that issue.

“Initially we’ll see what the forensic service thinks is appropriate in these circumstances,” Billings said. “It’s not a situation I’ve run into before.”

Billings said Bard’s case will likely be scheduled for trial next January, with a pre-trial conference held sometime before that.


Pelletier said the new plea of not criminally responsible entered Friday would be added to Bard’s previous not guilty plea to the charges against him.

The diminutive Bard, who has a beard and long wavy hair and wore a green jail uniform, said little in court during Friday’s brief hearing. He answered “yes” quietly when Billings asked if he understood the charges against him, and whether he wished to enter pleas of not criminally responsible by reason of insanity to each charge.

His mother, Jean Bard, was the only spectator at Friday’s hearing, other than two members of the media.

Rucha said after the hearing neither he nor the defense could talk to the press due to a court order. A gag order was issued ahead of the first trial, as well.

The offenses allegedly occurred between December 2011 and April 2012.

The investigation began in May 2012 when a citizen came across a Craigslist ad offering to babysit, photograph and bathe children. She reported it to Maine State Police, who learned that someone at Bard’s address had created the ad, after filing subpoenas to get the address used to open the account from the internet provider.

After first denying it, Bard acknowledged he had placed the ad, authorities said. Police said Bard admitted he had looked at child pornography on computers in the home.

Initially police looked for child pornography on Bard’s computers, then located a micro SD card used for storing data, which Bard told them contained “personal things,” according to an affidavit filed in court by the chief investigator, Maine State Police Detective Chris Tremblay. Rucha said some of the photos on that card showed Bard engaging in sexual assaults of the 4-year-old girl he had babysat.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.