May 26, 2019

Yablonka attorney wants records sealed > End to pretrial publicity sought in baby-theft case

BANGOR — The attorney representing a woman accused of stealing a newborn baby from a Bangor hospital last month wants prosecutors to stop talking about the case with the media.

Attorney David Gray also wants the court record of Nicole Yablonka sealed from public view.

Gray filed a motion with the Penobscot County Superior Court on Tuesday requesting that Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy and everyone else in Almy’s office be forbidden to discuss the case until the investigation is complete.

Citing his client’s right to privacy and concerns about prejudicing potential jurors, Gray said too much information already had been released about the emotionally charged case.

Gray said he was specifically concerned about Almy’s statement to the press that Yablonka had been transferred from Penobscot County Jail to the Bangor Mental Health Institute.

“That should be confidential,” Gray said, adding that he believes some members of the press are aggressively searching for his client.

Almy said he understood Gray’s concerns.

“I think his motion probably makes a lot of sense. If people are trying to exploit this woman, that is inappropriate,” said Almy. “Putting a lid on investigative material is probably appropriate.”

The district attorney said that since Yablonka was in custody the public had a right to know where she was being housed, but he said release of information regarding her treatment would not be wise.

Yablonka, 26, of East Corinth was indicted last week for Class A kidnapping and could face up to 40 years in prison if convicted.

She reportedly confessed to taking the 8-hour-old baby from his mother’s room at Eastern Maine Medical Center on Monday, Nov. 18. She was arrested a couple of hours later at Mid-Maine Medical Center in Waterville where she stopped to call a friend.

Yablonka, who admitted to faking her own pregnancy, told her best friend that she had delivered her baby on the side of the road in Waterville and asked her friend to come to the Waterville hospital to pick up her and her new son.

Yablonka allegedly had been scoping out babies at MMMC a day earlier and was recognized by a hospital staff person and arrested by an off-duty state trooper who was at the hospital.

The uninjured baby was returned by police cruiser to his anxious parents.

Yablonka told police that she had suffered several miscarriages, including one in October.

“This has been a highly publicized case and the information being released to the media could seriously interfere with my client’s ability to get a fair trial,” said Gray.

Gray said that upon Almy’s request he had agreed not to release to anyone the names of the baby’s parents.

“I have agreed to do that because it’s fair to those parents. All I’m asking is that my client be treated fairly as well,” Gray said.

Some of the information concerning Yablonka’s medical history should be confidential, Gray said, as well as any emotional problems from which she may suffer.

Yablonka’s state of mind at the time she allegedly took the baby is expected to be a key defense point during the trial.

She is scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday, but Gray would not say whether she would enter an insanity plea.

Yablonka could plead not guilty Thursday, and later change that plea.

Meanwhile, Gray wants her name out of the headlines.

“Where she is living and what her family is doing isn’t relevant. At some point my client’s rights outweigh the public’s need to know,” he said.

Another option available to Gray would be to file for a change of venue for the trial. He said he had not decided whether to take that action, but said he may consider it if concerns continue to grow regarding Yablonka’s ability to get a fair trial in Penobscot County,

Gray would not confirm whether Yablonka was at BMHI. Jail officials, however, did say she was not in custody at Penobscot County Jail.

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