The lawyers representing the man accused of killing a Somerset County Sheriff’s deputy have filed a motion to suppress “any and all statements” the suspect made to the officers who interrogated him, arguing that they obtained an alleged confession through physical coercion.

Verne E. Paradie Jr., a Lewiston-based attorney, said he filed the motion to suppress in Cumberland County Superior Court on behalf of his client, 29-year-old John D. Williams of Madison, on Aug. 23.

Paradie contends that the statements were obtained illegally because his client was beaten by arresting officers and when state police homicide detectives arrived to interrogate him he feared “he would continue to be beaten by overzealous police officers.” Paradie’s court filing states that a confession is only admissible if it was given “knowingly, understandably and voluntarily, and the state has the burden to prove voluntariness beyond a reasonable doubt.”

“Obtaining confessions by physical abuse constitutes an egregious violation of an underlying principle of our criminal justice system … that ours is an accusatorial and not an inquisitorial  system,” the motion states.

Williams has been charged with murder in the slaying of Cpl. Eugene Cole in April. Cole, 62, became the first Maine police officer fatally shot in the line of duty in three decades. Williams pleaded not guilty to the murder charge in June

In their motion, Paradie and co-counsel Patrick Nickerson state that “despite zero resistance by Mr. Williams, officers beat and pummeled him to the point of causing him to defecate himself. Photos show that the officers severely injured Mr. Williams, kicking him in the head and face, among other things, and causing severe bruising and then holding up his head by the back of his hair like a game trophy.”

The seven-man capture team included game wardens, state police, Fairfield police and FBI agents.

Court documents state that “When the interrogating detectives told him they were there to help him, naked, dirty, hungry, tired, beaten and in the throes of an opioid withdrawal, Mr. Williams sincerely believed they could help him get away from the beatings and was ready to tell them anything they wanted to hear to avoid further beatings.”

In the filing, Williams’ attorneys say that their client was in the throes of an opioid withdrawal when officers arrested him. 

“Individuals in such a situation are not capable of advocating for themselves or making important decisions due to the withdrawal and their uncomfortable physical condition,” the motion said.

In a telephone interview Thursday night, Paradie said the publicity generated by the high-profile slaying caused the trial to be moved from the Skowhegan courts to Portland where Williams is tentatively expected to face trial in May 2019.

“It would have been difficult to select an impartial jury (in Skowhegan),” Paradie said.

State prosecutors have indicated they will seek a life sentence for Williams.

Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, referred all questions about the case to the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

“We will have no response to the comments that are being made by his attorneys,” McCausland said Thursday.

Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchesi, who will be prosecuting the case, could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

Initially, Williams had been incarcerated at the Maine State Prison, but he has since been moved to the Cumberland County Jail in Portland, Paradie said. A hearing on the motion to suppress statements made to police has not been scheduled yet.

According to court documents, Williams claimed he “got the drop” on Cole and shot him in the head after he tripped, fell backward and landed on the ground during a confrontation that took place in Norridgewock on April 25.

A manhunt that lasted four days resulted in Williams’ arrest in a wooded area of Fairfield. The manhunt involved about 200 officers from several jurisdictions.

On the day of his arrest, Williams, who was shirtless and barefoot, was led out of a wooded area by police. He was given a yellow blanket to cover himself from the waist down before being placed in a state police vehicle and driven away. Police confirmed they had used Cole’s handcuffs to restrain him.

Authorities addressed questions surrounding Williams’ treatment during his arrest, saying that he suffered a black eye while offering “limited resistance” during his apprehension and that a photo in which an officer is shown pulling Williams’ head up by the hair was necessary because he resisted having his picture taken and police needed to confirm his identity.

Police did not intend to release the capture photo to the public, but it was leaked on social media within an hour after it was taken. Police later confirmed that one of the arresting officers had taken the photo. The photo was later removed from the social media sites where it had appeared.

While the photograph of officers holding his head up will be used as evidence in the suppression hearing, Paradie said it won’t be the only point made in his arguments.

“My client was beaten pretty severely,” Paradie said. “There are rules around obtaining confessions and when we don’t follow those rules there have to be consequences.”

“I think the photo epitomizes what the officers did to him,” Paradie added.

This photo on right taken by Maine State Police in April 2018 shows the moment when law enforcement apprehended John D. Williams, sought in the slaying of Cpl. Eugene Cole, of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office. Maine State Police did not officially release the photo — it was first leaked on social media — but they later confirmed that they took the photo and posted it on the agency’s official Twitter and Instagram pages. The photo on the left is his booking photo. (Photos courtesy of Maine State Police)

In this file photo, John Williams, who is accused of killing Somerset County Deputy Cpl. Eugene Cole, talks with lawyer Verne Paradie before pleading not guilty at the Cumberland County Courthouse in June. (Portland Press Herald file photo)


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