Abuse Hysteria in Maine: The Ghost of Michael Nifong

During the early hours of March 14, 2006, a group of Duke University lacrosse players allegedly raped and sodomized a Black woman. Over the next 13 months, the sleepy town of Durham, North Carolina became witness to a succession of prosecutorial accusations, full-throated media warnings, and castration marches.

On April 12, 2007, the state Attorney General declared the three lacrosse players innocent of all charges. Two months later, prosecutor Michael Nifong was disbarred on grounds of engaging in fraud, dishonesty, and deceit.

Maine’s criminal justice system is on a mission to stop domestic violence. This certainly would be laudable if the effort was:

Grounded in Valid Research

Women are as likely, if not more likely, than men to initiate physical aggression with their intimate partners, according to hundreds of studies by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and other organizations (1, 2).

Compliant with Ethical Principles

According to the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar, “A prosecutor has the responsibility of a minister of justice and not simply that of an advocate. This responsibility carries with it specific obligations to see that the defendant is accorded procedural justice and that guilt is decided upon the basis of sufficient evidence.” (3)

Respectful of Civil Liberties

The Bill of Rights guarantees certain rights and protections to American citizens, including equal treatment under the law, due process (such as right to a fair trial), and probable-cause before arrest (4).

Unfortunately in the State of Maine, none of these hold true in the area of domestic violence. Indeed, the situation is more grave than what happened at Duke University because it has persisted over a far longer period of time and has harmed the lives of many more persons:

1. Prosecutorial Misconduct

Assistant District Attorney Mary Kellett has prosecuted dozens of innocent citizens on allegations of domestic violence and rape. She has flagrantly violated the above-stated ethical principle to be a “minister of justice.”

2. Supreme Court Action

One of the persons falsely accused is Vladek Filler, a father, small business owner, and long-time resident of Maine. On January 15, 2009, Mr. Filler was convicted on three counts of assaulting of his former wife, Ligia. But 21 months later the Maine Supreme Court ordered a re-trial on the basis that ADA Mary Kellett had sought to exclude key evidence that would have served to establish Filler’s innocence (5). More information on the case can be seen here: http://www.fillerfund.com/

3. No-drop Prosecution

Many prosecutors in Maine follow a “no-drop” prosecution policy. For example, one District Attorney promises on her website, I will “vigorously prosecute all cases” (6). Such policies flaunt the Board of Overseers ethical requirement that prosecutors not pursue a criminal charge “that prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause.” (7).

4. Predominant Aggressor

The Maine Criminal Justice Academy has developed a curriculum for law enforcement personnel, “Identifying Predominant Aggressors in Domestic Violence Cases.” A SAVE analysis of the curriculum concluded, “Given its numerous misrepresentations of fact and dubious recommendations, the Maine document cannot be viewed as a credible law enforcement resource.” (8)

Every false allegation, every wrongful arrest, and every trivial prosecution takes away sorely needed services and protections from the real victims. We are calling on Governor Paul LePage and representatives of the criminal justice system – particularly policemen, prosecutors, and judges — to assure truth and justice are safeguarded in the State of Maine.


1. Whitaker DJ et al. Differences in frequency of violence and reported injury between relationships with reciprocal and nonreciprocal intimate partner violence. American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 97, No. 5, 2007.

2. Fiebert ML. References Examining Assaults by Women on their Spouses or Male Partners. California State University, 2010. http://www.csulb.edu/~mfiebert/assault.htm

3. Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar. Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor. Comment. http://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/index.php?topic=mebar_overseers_bar_rules&id=88228&v=article

4. Stop Abusive and Violent Environments. Are Domestic Violence Policies Respecting our Fundamental Freedoms? Rockville, MD. 2010. http://www.saveservices.org/downloads/SAVE-Assault-Civil-Rights

5. Maine Supreme Judicial Court. State of Maine v. Vladek Filler. Decided September 9, 2010. www.courts.state.me.us/court_info/opinions/

6. Office of District Attorney Carletta M. Bassano. www.da7.org/aboutda.htm . Accessed March 22, 2011.

7. Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar. Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor. 3.8(a) http://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/index.php?topic=mebar_overseers_bar_rules&id=88228&v=article

8. Stop Abusive and Violent Environments. Predominant Aggressor Policies: Leaving the Abuser Unaccountable? Rockville, MD. 2010. http://www.saveservices.org/downloads/Predominant-Aggressor-Policies

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