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Jury rules in favor of Maine correctional officers accused of violating inmate’s rights

Robert Goguen, 40, of Bangor alleged in a lawsuit filed more than three years ago that jail officials conspired to deny him due process

By Judy Harrison
Bangor Daily News

BANGOR, Maine — A federal jury on Friday issued a verdict in a civil trial that cleared eight current and former corrections officers at the Somerset County Jail of accusations that they violated the constitutional rights of a pretrial inmate in 2011.

Robert Goguen, 40, of Bangor alleged in a lawsuit filed more than three years ago that jail officials conspired to deny him due process by placing him in the maximum security section of the jail without an administrative hearing to determine what, if any, infractions he had committed.

He also alleged in the lawsuit that the corrections officers retaliated against him by placing him in a cell alone for 23 hours a day after he filed administrative complaints about how he was being treated.

“The verdict was obviously a disappointment to Mr. Goguen,” his attorney, Michael Waxman of Portland, said Monday in an email. “However, I think the jury took its job and its oath seriously and I think Mr. Goguen was given a fair trial. I remain convinced that Mr. Goguen was subjected to punitive prison conditions in violation of his constitutional rights; I just think the jury was deferential to the prison guards dealing with difficult prisoners.”

Defense attorney Peter Marchesi of Waterville, who represented the jail guards, disagreed. He told jurors in his closing statement that Goguen’s refusal to follow jail rules and his cursing at officers is what led to his being placed in maximum security.

“These allegations never had any merit and never had any truth to them,” Marchesi said Monday. “‘The Prisoners’ Self-Help Litigation Manual’ was [Goguen’s] Bible. According to testimony, his modus operandi was to obtain jail policies and document any deviation from those policies to fabricate litigation for financial gain.”

Goguen sued the Aroostook and Penobscot county jails, where he was held before being moved to the East Madison facility, a year before he sued the Somerset County Jail, according to court documents. The Penobscot and Somerset county cases settled before going to trial.

Waxman said Monday that he could not disclose the terms of the settlements due to confidentiality agreements.

Goguen won a victory acting as his own attorney when now retired U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk granted the section of his summary judgment motion on the issues that proceeded to trial.

In the Somerset County case, U.S. District Judge John Nivison on Thursday dismissed the conspiracy count on a motion made by Marchesi before the case went to the jury of four men and four women. After deliberating for about 90 minutes on Friday, the jury found that the corrections officers had not violated Goguen’s constitutional rights by subjecting him to punishment as a pretrial detainee without due process of law or violated his right to free speech without retaliation.

The corrections officers, three of whom no longer work for the jail, that the jury cleared were: David Allen, Jessica Almeida, Darlena Bugbee, Jennifer Gilblair, Eddie Jacques, Craig Meunier, Keith Plourd and Michael Rizzo. Allen, Meunier and Plourd are no longer employed by Somerset County, according to court documents.

Goguen was at the Somerset County Jail in 2011 awaiting trial in Penobscot County on one count each of unlawful sexual contact and failure to register as a sex offender, according to a previously published report. He allegedly had unlawful sexual contact on July 28, 2010, in Patten when he lived in Island Falls.

He was according to court documents. He pleaded guilty to the charge in September 2012 and the state charges were dismissed.

He was sentenced to 16 months in federal prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. He was released on Jan. 14, 2014, and remains on supervised release, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prison’s inmate locator website.

The jury in last week’s trial was told that Goguen had been convicted of a federal crime but not what the crime was, according to Marchesi. Jurors also were not told Goguen is a convicted sex offender.

Goguen is a lifetime sex offender registrant due to a 1996 conviction of a sex crime in Connecticut. He moved to Maine in 2009 from western Massachusetts, where he had registered as required.