Cole cleared in 10 of 11 sexual assault charges

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PARIS — A Rumford man accused of sexually assaulting a girl over six years was found not guilty on 10 of 11 counts Wednesday in Oxford County Superior Court.

The jury of six men and six women was unable to reach a decision on the last gross sexual assault charge against James V. Cole Jr., 32, after nearly nine hours of deliberation.

As a clerk read the jury’s verdicts, Cole’s family hugged one another. The family of the girl he was accused of sexually assaulting from 2003 to 2008 sat silent.

Justice Robert Clifford declared a mistrial on the 11th charge.

Assistant District Attorney Richard Beauchesne, who prosecuted the case, said he respected the jury’s decision and didn’t know whether he would seek a retrial on the last charge. He said he would speak with the family and take their considerations into account as well as his own legal opinion.

“The possibility of gathering additional evidence exists,” Beauchesne said, adding that he didn’t know whether it would improve the state’s case.

The charge on which the jury couldn’t agree alleged an incident on Jan. 28, 2008, in a Mexico storage locker. The girl reported it the next day, and her clothes were taken as evidence.

According to a DNA analyst from the Maine State Police Crime Laboratory, sperm cells were found in the girl’s underwear and revealed a partial match with Cole’s DNA. Analyst Theresa Calicchio said there was too little sperm to get a complete profile, but that only 1 in 28 people could match the DNA found in the sperm cells, and that Cole was a potential match.

Cole’s attorney, Leonard Sharon, raised doubt about whether the DNA was Cole’s. He said the girl may have been having sex with her ex-boyfriend at the time, and pointed out that a DNA sample was never obtained from the boyfriend for comparison.

Sharon called Jill Cramer, a DNA analyst from the Dallas, Texas, crime lab firm of Orchid Cellmark, who had checked over Calicchio’s work. Cramer said she would not have called Cole a potential donor of the DNA sample in the underwear. She said there was too little evidence to link him to it.

DNA from sperm on a blanket found inside the storage locker proved a closer match to Cole’s DNA and was mixed with a close match to the girl’s DNA. Cole said he had slept on the blanket with his ex-wife before it was moved to the storage locker.

After the verdict, Sharon called the trial “a tough case.”

“It was just ripe for reasonable doubt,” he said, because there was no collection of DNA from the girl’s ex-boyfriend or from Cole’s ex-wife. During the trial, he also pointed out that several items of clothing worn by both Cole and the girl in the alleged incident Jan. 28, 2008, were never analyzed for DNA evidence.

Capt. Daniel Garbarini of the Rumford Police Department testified that it was his first major sex case and with the training he has received since 2008, he wished he had obtained more evidence.

The trial began March 28.

Clifford thanked the jury before dismissing them Wednesday. “This has been a long case. A difficult case,” he said. “These cases always are.”

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