A Portland woman seeking civil damages against a man she accuses of sexually abusing her decades ago will now have to wait until next year to face him in the courtroom.

Julia Russell filed a civil complaint against Philip Chenevert in U.S. District Court in Portland in July 2021. The complaint details allegations that Chenevert abused her for two years, starting in 1992 when she was about 6 years old. Chenevert owned Dr. Volvo, an auto dealership and service center on Route 1 in Arundel, and was a groomsman in her parents’ wedding. Today he lives in Florida. Russell, who grew up in Saco, co-owns Magnus on Water in downtown Biddeford.

The trial was set to begin Monday but was rescheduled for Jan. 23, 2023, following a private telephone conference between U.S. District Judge John Woodcock and attorneys for Russell and Chenevert. Jury selection will begin on Jan. 3.

The trial was canceled Sunday after a juror became unavailable because of personal reasons, according to a clerk for the district court, bringing the jury pool down to five. Two other jurors were also dismissed as of Friday. A civil trial in U.S. District Court requires a minimum of six jurors.

Russell’s attorney, Taylor Asen, declined to comment on the case. Chenevert’s attorney, Gene Libby, did not respond to messages requesting to talk about the trial.

Russell spoke to the Portland Press Herald last spring, shortly after filing her complaint, and was featured in a column by Press Herald’s columnist Bill Nemitz detailing Russell’s experience telling her family she had been abused. She told Nemitz that she thought sharing her story could help other potential victims.


Since the article was published, at least two other women have come forward to say they also were abused by Chenevert as children. They also were scheduled to testify during the trial.

Following a story by the Portland Press Herald previewing the trial, Libby filed a motion Thursday to reexamine the jurors about “potential prejudicial pretrial publicity.”

Libby’s motion, filed before the most recent juror was released, referenced the fact that the trial was already one juror away from being delayed. According to a court clerk, losing a juror over the weekend was not related to Libby’s motion. Libby also asked the court to sanction Russell because Asen spoke to the Press Herald.

“At this late stage, losing another juror will result in tremendous loss of time and resources for the parties, the Court, and the dozens of prospective jurors who came to court to participate in jury selection,” Libby wrote. “If another juror is lost because of the article, the Court should entertain a request for sanctions against Russell to include, at a minimum, Russell’s payment of Chenevert’s attorney’s fees, costs, and expenses incurred in connection with the jury selection.”

Asen said that jurors were already instructed before the article was published to ignore media coverage of the case.

“Since the Court had instructed the empaneled jurors to avoid media, Defendant has not demonstrated how counsel’s responses to the reporter’s questions created a ‘danger of interference with the administration of justice,’ ” Asen wrote in a reply to Libby’s motion. “If a juror chose to ignore the Court’s instructions and read media accounts, then any interference with justice was caused by the juror’s misconduct, not by counsel’s response to the media inquiry.”

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