PARIS – A jury found Rodney A. Heath, 32, guilty of Class B unlawful sexual conduct, Class C aggravated criminal trespass, and Class D assault in Oxford County Superior Court on Thursday. Heath’s last given address is 29 Tucker St., Norway, though he testified that he resides in Otisfield.

Heath was indicted in January after his 27-year-old ex-girlfriend accused him of sexually assaulting her at her home in Paris. The charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 16 years.

“Rodney was pretty optimistic that this would result in acquittal,” said defense attorney Kevin Joyce. Heath will be sentenced on May 31.

Heath took the stand Thursday as the only defense witness in the trial. He said he was invited to the woman’s house and surprised upon arrival to find her in bed with Matthew Ferrante of Portland, her acknowledged boyfriend at the time. Ferrante, who testified on Wednesday, said he fled the house to seek help after Heath’s arrival.

Heath said he and the woman got into a verbal argument, and that they said “a lot of things that we didn’t mean.” He included his statement that he would assault either the woman or Ferrante in this argument.

Heath said he and the woman started to have consensual sex after the argument, but that she started crying and he stopped. He admitted that he did not mention the sexual contact to police until an interview with Detective Terrance James of the Maine State Police, and said that he had been scared to tell the police.

“I really didn’t feel I was doing anything wrong,” said Heath.

Under cross-examination by Assistant District Attorney Richard Beauchesne, Heath denied that he had threatened to assault Ferrante if the woman did not have sex with him.

Beauchesne questioned why Heath continued to believe that he was to meet the woman when text messages on his cell phone showed an increasing level of hostility over her failure to contact him.

The victim had testified earlier that she and Heath exchanged a series of text messages before the incident in which it was agreed that she would have sex with him after he helped remove some trash that was piling up at the house. When he failed to remove the trash, and her boyfriend showed up unexpectedly to spend the weekend, the woman said she called off the agreement.

“There was no conversation saying I was not expected,” Heath said Thursday.

Beauchesne also noted a phone record showing 10 calls from Heath’s cell phone to the woman’s residence over a nine-minute period following the texting.

Heath said his phone was in his pocket during that time, and that it would sometimes accidentally continue to call the last number dialed. Beauchesne said that the last number dialed was different from the number for the woman’s residence.

The woman said that Heath entered the house twice without permission, and sexually assaulted her the second time.

Darlene Glover and Sandra Stevens, both employees of Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway, also testified Wednesday that the victim had bruising and injuries consistent with an assault.

In his closing argument, Beauchesne argued that the woman had no reason to fake the charges and that the proceedings showed that Heath used compulsion to have sex with the woman. He also questioned why Heath withheld the sexual act from his statements to police.

“If he didn’t do anything wrong, what did he have to be afraid of?” asked Beauchesne.

Joyce said the woman’s testimony of putting up a fierce struggle did not match the findings of police and that there were disparities between the testimony of state witnesses.

“It doesn’t add up,” said Joyce, requesting that the jury find Heath not guilty by reasonable doubt.

The jury found Heath guilty after roughly 2½ hours of deliberation. Judge Robert E. Crowley ordered him held without bail at the Oxford County Jail until his sentencing, saying that the verdict increased Heath’s flight risk.


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