Brian Landis Oxford County Sheriff’s Office photo

SOUTH PARIS — An Oxford County judge dismissed two misdemeanor charges Wednesday against a former sheriff’s lieutenant in a case that was connected to the abrupt resignation of the defendant’s boss, Sheriff Wayne Gallant, who was accused of sexually harassing employees.

District Court Judge Charles Dow dismissed two counts of misdemeanor domestic violence terrorizing against former Oxford County Sheriff’s Lt. Brian Landis, who was in the midst of a divorce when he was arrested in 2017 for allegedly threatening to kill his wife, Dawn Landis.

Landis’ arrest at first seemed to be a case of alleged domestic violence. But it soon became enmeshed with Gallant’s downfall from public office, after a union official said Gallant allegedly solicited sex from a male employee and that employee’s girlfriend, and when the male employee rebuffed the advances, Gallant allegedly threatened the employee’s job. Later, Gallant’s attorney said the male employee was Landis, and that Gallant worked behind the scenes to orchestrate the charges.

Former Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant, right, talks to his lawyer Jim Martemucci during a recess Wednesday in the hearing of a criminal case against former Sheriff’s Lt. Brian Landis. Gallant was supposed to testify, but the judge dismissed the case. Press Herald photo by Brianna Soukup

The case against Landis was dismissed Wednesday because a former prosecutor did not follow through on a promise to the judge to seek out and turn over Facebook messages that Gallant and Dawn Landis exchanged before and after Brian Landis’ arrest. Landis’ attorney, Ted Dilworth, said the messages went to the heart of his argument.

The existence of the Facebook messages only came to light because they were discovered by the FBI, which began investigating Gallant before he left office, and were described by a witness in an earlier court hearing.

“Our theory was going to be at trial that this was a setup, a conspiracy against our client,” Dilworth said. “We don’t think (the charges) were justified. We believe that a lot of people were involved with this who shouldn’t have been involved.”

The defendant rejected a plea offer of one count of disorderly conduct and a $500 fine, Dilworth said.

The former sheriff has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crimes, but after 11 years in office, he stepped down in December 2017 in the face of an internal investigation by Oxford County. Gallant was expected to testify Wednesday – his first public comments under oath about his actions as sheriff – but the judge issued his dismissal from the bench before any witnesses were called.

Outside the courthouse on Wednesday, Gallant declined to comment before driving away in a black pickup truck.

The dismissal is the second sanction by the judge against the state in the case for failing to turn over information to the defense. Every criminal defendant is entitled to receive documents and information that form the basis of the state’s case, in a process known as discovery. When the state fails to turn over information, a judge must decide the proper sanction, with dismissal of the charges being the most severe.

Assistant District Attorney Alvah A.J. Chalifour argued that dismissal of the charges against former Oxford County Sheriff’s Lt. Brian Landis was an extreme and inappropriate step. Press Herald photo by Brianna Soukup

In the first rebuke to the state, Dow in July ordered that prosecutors turn over certain documents that were apparently being withheld from Landis’ attorney related to interviews between officers and Dawn Landis. As part of his response to the judicial order, the assistant district attorney handling the case at the time, Alexander Willette, told the judge he would also request copies of the Facebook messages between the alleged victim and Gallant.

But Willette never followed through, and he never informed the court that he failed to do as he promised. Instead, a State Police detective assigned to the case asked Dawn Landis to produce the messages, but she inexplicably could not find them, according to the attorneys. No further efforts were made to locate the messages until the current prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Alvah Chalifour, asked Gallant about them moments before Wednesday’s proceedings began, Chalifour said during the hearing.

Willette subsequently left the prosecutor’s office, and in April was appointed deputy director of political affairs for outreach for President Trump, according to the White House.

During arguments before the ruling, Chalifour admitted that Willette erred by not following through on his commitment, but also argued that dismissal was an extreme and inappropriate step. Chalifour also argued that if the state subpoenaed Facebook, it could turn into a much larger breach of privacy of the personal life of Dawn Landis, a victim of alleged domestic violence terrorizing whose life had already been disrupted by the publicity surrounding the case.

Dow argued against that notion, and asked Chalifour why the state couldn’t have narrowly tailored its request to only messages exchanged between Dawn Landis and Gallant.

“I can’t answer that specifically, your honor,” Chalifour said. “I know typically … ” But Dow cut him off.

“Come on,” Dow said. Gallant wasn’t a victim of domestic violence terrorizing, Dow said. Why not request the communications through his account?

“The state always has to be careful when it’s peering into people’s personal lives,” Chalifour said. “The state would be finding out information by service of a subpoena which, either (for) Mr. Gallant, or Mrs. Landis’ or any person’s personal information – that we may learn more than we were supposed to.”

“But isn’t it fair to say that the state was under order of a court to do just that?” Dow responded.