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Thursday, April 28, 2016 Serving Maine and Lincoln County for over a century. Volume 141 Issue 17

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6/26/2013 2:00:00 PM
Former Wiscasset Man Acquitted
Frank
Frank "Clay" Plunk gives testimony at his trial on June 25. (D. Lobkowicz photo)
By Dominik Lobkowicz


It took a jury in Lincoln County Superior Court less than 25 minutes to find a man formerly of Wiscasset not guilty of five counts of unlawful sexual contact on June 25.

Frank "Clay" Plunk, 48, of Bath, is known locally as the lead singer of the dance band Tickle. Plunk was indicted by a grand jury in 2012 on five felony (Class B) charges of intentionally subjecting a person less than 12 years of age and not his spouse to sexual contact while being at least three years older than the victim.

The incidents were alleged to have occurred on at least five occasions during the late winter and early spring of 2010 and were deposed to police by the victim in 2012.

Plunk, both in a recorded interview with law enforcement and in testimony delivered on the stand, denied ever having any sexual contact with the victim.

The state's case relied heavily on the testimony of the alleged victim, now age 14, and presented no physical evidence of the crime during the trial.

During closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Wright questioned rhetorically whether there would be any physical evidence of such a crime, since the alleged sexual contact was touching through the victim's clothing and was not reported to police until nearly two years after it was supposed to have occurred.

"There would be none!" Wright exclaimed.

The victim had nothing to gain from making up these claims, Wright said. "If a little girl was going to come up with a story, why would she come up with this story?" he asked the jury.

Donald Lawson-Stopps, Plunk's attorney, called into question the validity of the alleged victim's testimony due to inconsistencies between what she said on the stand and what she said in a recorded interview with law enforcement.

Lawson-Stopps questioned whether Lincoln County Sheriff's Detective Robert McFetridge, who performed the recorded interview, had gone against training he had received regarding the process of questioning children.

McFetridge confirmed his training called for the use of open-ended questions, avoiding leading questions, and avoiding reinforcing any specific questions, but said his questions would have only violated his training depending on when they were asked.

The questions Lawson-Stopps was referring to occurred in the second interview only to confirm information already shared by the victim in the initial interview, McFetridge said.

Lawson-Stopps also pointed out inconsistencies between the girl's account in the interview and both her and her mother's testimony of the circumstances surrounding the conversation when the alleged victim reported the alleged touching to her mother.

The victim did not present a consistent story in both the law enforcement interview and her testimony on the stand, Lawson-Stopps said. Some details she only remembered in that second interview with McFetridge after he reminded her about them, he said.

The evidence as a whole indicated a chaotic life for the victim, Lawson-Stopps said. The victim only came forward after finding out Plunk, with whom she acknowledged she had had a good relationship with and whom was an important part of her life, would no longer be in her life, Lawson-Stopps said.

No one can know the alleged victim's motivation for why she made the claims about the sexual touching, but one could see the circumstances she made them in, Lawson-Stopps said.

"[Plunk] never touched her, he never would touch her," Lawson-Stopps said.

After the jury returned with verdicts of not guilty for all five counts of unlawful sexual contact, Plunk said he was thankful for their "wise" decision.

"I'm thankful for Don Lawson, [that] I had him to represent me," Plunk said.

"We respect the jury's verdict," Wright said after the trial. Wright said he disagreed with the outcome, but the jury seemed to be a fair and impartial group of people.

"I wish the outcome was different, but it isn't," Wright said.



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