FARMINGTON — The Maine Supreme Judicial Court will hear oral arguments Tuesday, June 12, in the state’s appeal of a ruling that overturned a Madrid Township man’s conviction of sexual abuse of a minor.

Arguments are scheduled for 10:40 am. at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta.

A Franklin County jury found John Fahnley, 63, guilty of a felony sexual abuse of a minor in 2014 and acquitted him of sexual assault and sexual abuse of minor. 

The case involved a Massachusetts boy under age 16 in 2008 in Maine. Fahnley was charged after the boy turned 18. 

Fahnley was sentenced to three years of a five-year prison sentence, which he has served. 

Fahnley petitioned Franklin County Superior Court to review his conviction, citing ineffective assistance of counsel, according to a court document.


Justice Nancy Mills, who presided over the trial in Franklin County Superior Court, granted the petition Oct. 31, 2017.

The court is satisfied that “counsel’s conduct so undermined the proper functioning of the adversarial process that the trial cannot be relied on having a produced a just result,” according to Mills’ decision. Counsel did not interview any of the witnesses identified by Fahnley, except for one, and none of the witnesses that were identified to counsel were called to testify at the trial, according to the document.

Potentially favorable evidence to the defendant was provided to counsel by Fahnley but was not used even though counsel told Fahnley it would be, according to the decision.

Trial counsel also has a duty to consult with the petitioner with regard to “important decisions”  and “overarching defense strategy,” according to Mills’ decision. “There is nothing in this record to suggest petitioner agreed with the complete abandonment of his defense,” according to the document.

State prosecutors will argue the Superior Court “clearly erred in its determination of facts because it did not adequately consider evidence of counsel’s trial strategy and reasonable decisions about presenting the evidence,” according to a summary of the arguments to be presented.

If the state’s appeal is not granted, the Superior Court’s decision will stand. The  state will then have the option to retry the case.

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