AUBURN — A judge declined Monday to dismiss a drunken driving case against a former Auburn police officer stemming from a 2007 car accident.

Instead, the judge ruled the only evidence that would be allowed at trial, possibly in September, is the same evidence that was permitted by the judge a year ago — when the same charge against the cop was dropped at the last minute.

Prosecutors dropped the criminal operating under the influence charge the morning of the first day of trial last year after learning the young driver of the other vehicle had died months after the crash. Prosecutors decided to wait for autopsy results before going ahead with their case.

Had the other driver’s death been related to the accident, prosecutors said they might have upgraded charges against the former officer. The autopsy ruled out a link between the man’s death and the crash.

In March, prosecutors brought back the criminal OUI charge against former police officer Mitchell Sweetser, 42, of Auburn. If convicted, he faces up to 364 days in jail.

Sweeetser’s attorney, Leonard Sharon, argued Monday in Androscoggin County Superior Court that prosecutors took too long to charge his client again with the same crime.

Moreover, Sharon said his client was unable to gain access to all of the evidence in the case because the state had destroyed Sweetser’s blood sample from which the state was able to determine his blood-alcohol level at the time of the crash.

Sharon said he had flown an expert from Wisconsin to Maine last summer to testify at trial about the state’s analysis of Sweetser’s blood-alcohol level. At that time, prosecutors had no witness to counter Sweetser’s expert, Sharon said. But, during the seven months that passed between dismissal of the initial charge and reinstating the same charge, prosecutors gathered additional evidence from hospital records and found a rebuttal witness.

Sharon argued the state had used dismissal of the initial charge as a delaying tactic.

Assistant District Attorney Richard Beauchesne said it took seven months to bring the same charge back against Sweetser because of the time involved in getting and executing a search warrant for hospital records. At the time he dismissed the first charge against Sweetser, he only wanted to learn whether the autopsy of the 25-year-old driver of the pickup truck involved in the accident was caused by the crash.

Justice Thomas Delahanty II said the first trial was stopped for one reason: to determine whether there was any connection between the driver’s death and the crash. For that reason, the evidence allowed at trial would be the same as the evidence allowed at the time the first trial was supposed to start, he said.

“I think that’s fairest to both sides, under the circumstances,” Delahanty said.

Sweetser reportedly ran a red light on Hampshire Street at 11:30 p.m. in November 2007. He was charged with criminal OUI. His blood-alcohol content was recorded at 0.19 percent, more than twice the legal driving limit. A sergeant at the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office investigated the crash. A police accident report said Sweetser apparently fell asleep behind the wheel.

Sweetser has pleaded not guilty to the charge.


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