Tampering with Evidence Should Not Qualify for Immunity

October 18, 2016

PORTLAND, Maine – The ACLU of Maine this month argued that a former Hancock County prosecutor should not be immune from prosecution for tampering with evidence and advising police to ignore a judicial subpoena. The ACLU of Maine joined the national ACLU and the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (MACDL) on a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, Filler v. Kellett.

Mary Kellett has admitted to supressing and failing to disclose exculpatory evidence during a 2009 trial that ended in the conviction of Vladek Filler. Filler was eventually retried and acquitted, and is now suing Kellett for misconduct. Kellett has argued that she is protected by prosecutorial immunity and the case against her should be dropped.

“The goal of the criminal justice system is justice, not a guilty verdict at all costs,” said Jamesa Drake, staff attorney with the ACLU of Maine. “Prosecutors are not above the law. They hold more power in our criminal justice system than ever before, and with that power comes accountability.”

In 2009, Kellett, then an Assistant District Attorney in Hancock County, prosecuted Filler for assault against his then-wife, Ligia Arguetta. At the time, a police officer interviewed Arguetta about her claims in a videotaped interview; at one point, the officer left the room and Arguetta was captured on tape admitting to a friend that she made up the claims in order to win custody of the couple’s children. Kellett submitted the video as evidence against Filler; however, she first authorized the editing of the tape to remove Arguetta’s admission.

Additionally, on three separate occassions, Kellett advised police officers not to comply with subpoenas from Filler’s attorneys seeking police records of interviews and interactions with Arguetta as well as 911 calls from Arguetta.

Filler’s conviction for assault was eventually overturned and he was awarded full custody of his children, but not before his life was torn apart. Filler says his business was ruined and he was forced to leave his home and town.

Kellett has argued that she has prosecutorial immunity and that the charges against her should be dropped, even though she has admitted to wrongdoing. The district court denied her motion to dismiss the case, and she has appealed that ruling.

In their brief in support of Filler, the ACLU of Maine, national ACLU and MACDL argue that there should be no prosecutorial immunity for tampering with evidence or advising police to break the law.

The brief was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. It can be found here: https://www.aclumaine.org/sites/default/files/filler_amicus.pdf

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