PORTLAND — The state’s highest court on Thursday vacated the convictions of a Lisbon man found guilty of attempted murder of Auburn police stemming from a 2008 high-speed chase.

Bartolo Ford listens to testimony in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn during a 2017 hearing on his petition for a new trial.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled unanimously that Bartolo Ford’s trial attorney, Daniel Lilley, was ineffective counsel because he hadn’t allowed Ford to testify in his own defense at trial.

In its decision, the court wrote: “Ford was prejudiced in his attempt to defend against all charges brought against him, entitling him to post-conviction relief from judgments of conviction on all counts.”

Ford, 57, was convicted by a jury in 2010 of aggravated attempted murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison with all but nine years suspended, plus six years of probation. He also was sentenced on six other counts stemming from the chase, including aggravated criminal mischief, reckless conduct, eluding an officer and theft by unauthorized taking. He was sentenced to between six months and two years in jail for each of those crimes, all to be served concurrently with the longer prison sentence.

After a post-conviction appeal in Androscoggin County Superior Court in 2017, Justice Donald Marden vacated the theft charge.

But in Thursday’s decision, the high court said Marden hadn’t gone far enough.


“The court based this on a receipt for the well tiles and the accompanying testimony that Ford alleges he would have presented. As to the remaining convictions, the court concluded that Ford failed to show any actual prejudice. We disagree. Ford’s theft conviction is inextricably intertwined with the other charges, and the prejudice that Ford suffered also affected his other convictions,” Supreme Court Justice Joseph Jabar wrote. “Because Ford was prevented from testifying, the jury did not hear crucial testimony that would have borne directly on the pivotal issue in this case — whether Ford was suffering from an abnormal state of mind.”

Lilley, Ford’s trial lawyer, had argued that on the night of the chase, the defendant had suffered an episode of post-traumatic stress disorder from the time he served in the Persian Gulf War.

Lilley died two years ago.

In arguing for Ford in February before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, David Bobrow of Eliot said Lilley hadn’t given his client the option of testifying at trial and hadn’t prepared him for that possibility.

“At a certain point in the trial, Mr. Ford expressed his desire to testify and was told, unequivocally, by lead counsel in this matter, ‘There was no f—ing way you’re testifying.’”  Bobrow had said. “The fact that Mr. Ford was not given his right to testify in a matter where the only issue before the jury was his actual — his mind — not what others believed what was going on in his mind, but his mind, is simply breathtaking.”

During oral arguments at the high court in February, Justice Ellen Gorman said, “I think your argument is that the decision by Justice Marden has an effect on every conviction and that Justice Marden, even on this collateral appeal, should have vacated them all. Is that right?”


“That’s correct,” Bobrow said. Case law supports that view, he said.

Ford’s high-speed chase with local police began on the night of Sept. 15, 2008, when he was spotted taking two well tiles, or concrete cylinders, from a company on Minot Avenue. When confronted by a police officer, Ford fled in a dump truck. When the truck hit a bump, one of the cylinders fell off and shattered in the road, puncturing the tire of a local police cruiser.

When a second officer took up the chase, Ford rammed that cruiser twice, disabling it. That officer fired four shots through the door of the truck, hitting Ford in the hip. A third officer caught up to Ford in Poland. Ford stopped, then rammed that officer’s cruiser head-on after turning the truck around.

Ford eventually fled into woods after abandoning the truck in a stream, later surrendering to a Maine State Police trooper.

The high court sent Ford’s case back to Androscoggin County Superior Court, granting his petition for post-conviction review and vacating all remaining convictions.

The Androscoggin County District Attorney’s Office could retry Ford on the charges.


District Attorney Andrew Robinson said Thursday his office will mull that possibility.

“We will make a decision on retrying the case within the next couple of weeks,” he said. “We need to speak with the victims and review what evidence is still available given the amount of time that has passed. It is frustrating that we prevailed during the original trial and then won the appeal of those convictions, only to learn that his attorney made mistakes that undermined all of the state’s work.”

Ford, who was free on probation, attended the February hearing at the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.