July 18, 2019

Supreme court upholds sex abuse conviction

PORTLAND — The state supreme court on Wednesday upheld a 43-year-old man’s conviction on child sexual abuse charges in a ruling that the prosecutor said would help prevent such cases from becoming “a battle of expert witnesses.”

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld Alan D. Preston’s conviction on three counts of unlawful sexual contact, two counts of assault, one count of gross sexual misconduct and one count of sexual abuse.

The court overturned Preston’s conviction on one count of unlawful sexual contact because it resulted from the same incident for which he was convicted of gross sexual misconduct and sexual abuse of a minor.

Preston, of Dover-Foxcroft, was accused of having sexual contact with his adopted daughter when she was 13 and of having sexual intercourse with her twice in June 1988, when the girl was 14.

He was convicted on Sept. 28, 1989. He was sentenced on Dec. 6, 1989, to five years in prison, with two years suspended, and four years probation. He was free on bail pending his appeal, but now must begin serving his sentence.

Preston’s attorney, Martha Harris of Bangor, did not return a telephone call Wednesday.

One of the key issues in Preston’s appeal involved the use of expert witnesses.

Preston contended that Piscataquis County Superior Court Justice Herbert Silsby improperly allowed the prosecution to introduce the testimony of an expert witness, a psychologist, while refusing to allow the defense to use two other expert witnesses.

The state’s high court said Silsby didn’t abuse his discretion in those rulings.

“We’re happy about the decision,” said R. Christopher Almy, district attorney for Penobscot and Piscataquis counties.

Almy said the ruling was important because it provided new “guidance to prosecutors and judges about the admissibility of expert testimony.”

Child sexual abuse cases are among the most difficult to prosecute because they often hinge on the testimony of the victim — and whether the child is telling the truth, he said.

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