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Jonathan Carey

Other Maine Exonerations
In the summer of 2009, 34-year-old Jonathan Carey pled guilty in Kennebec County, Maine, to aggravated criminal mischief for trashing his brother Josiah’s house following a dispute over car tires.

Jonathan Carey did not get along with his brothers Joshua and Josiah, who lived with their mother. Jonathan did have a good relationship with the fourth brother, Jeremy, who at that time was living with their father, James.

This was not the first family dispute, nor was the last.

When Jonathan began serving his sentence of several months in the Kennebec County Jail, he had been living with his girlfriend, Sarah Masse. Jonathan was living on Social Security Disability Insurance payments of $750 per month based on a diagnosis of bi-polar and social anxiety disorder.

After he went to jail, Jonathan asked Masse to cash one of his checks and to deposit $200 in his inmate account and to use the remaining $550 to buy parts for his Jeep. Masse deposited the $200 in his account, but did not buy the parts. Masse then stopped visiting him.

Unbeknownst to Jonathan, his brother Josiah, who was an unemployed crack addict and with whom he had the dispute over the tires, moved in with Masse. Masse cashed three more of Jonathan’s monthly checks for $750 each and kept the money.

In September 2009, Jonathan wrote to Masse complaining about her failure to visit him or answer his phone calls from the jail. He also told her that if she continued to steal money from him, he would notify federal authorities.

In response, Jonathan was served with a summons by police accusing him of sexually molesting two girls in 2008: Masse’s 13-year-old daughter, identified as B.S., and her daughter's best friend, identified A.S.A.

Jonathan was indicted in December 2009 on four counts of unlawful sexual contact with A.S.A. and B.S. By that time, he had contacted the Social Security Administration and learned that Masse had forged his name on the four checks.

On July 20, 2010, Jonathan went to trial in Kennebec County Superior Court. Masse testified that in September 2009, A.S.A. disclosed that a year earlier, A.S.A., B.S., and another friend were sleeping on a mattress on the floor when Jonathan came in to give them a blanket. During that visit, A.S.A. claimed, Jonathan digitally penetrated her and fondled her breasts. Masse testified that after A.S.A. made that disclosure, B.S. disclosed that she also had been molested similarly by Jonathan on a different occasion.

During cross-examination, Masse admitted that she had cashed Jonathan’s checks. The judge declared a recess and appointed an attorney to represent Masse. When the trial resumed, Masse declined to testify about any further financial matters and invoked her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. The prosecution and the defense then requested—and were granted—a mistrial.

Jonathan went to trial a second time in September 2011. Masse intended to testify and waive her Fifth Amendment privilege. However, B.S. refused to answer any questions about the alleged assault when the prosecutor called her to the witness stand. As a result, a second mistrial was declared.

On November 29, 2011, Jonathan was scheduled to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of sexual abuse. When he came to court, however, he changed his mind and refused to plead guilty.

He went to trial a third time in March 2012. The charges involving B.S. were dismissed prior to trial. A.S.A. testified that Jonathan fondled her breasts and digitally penetrated her. Masse did not testify. Although Jonathan denied the charges and wanted to testify, he did not testify on the advice of his lawyer who said his prior record and time in jail would damage his credibility. On March 16, 2012, after a two-day trial, Jonathan was convicted of two counts of unlawful sexual contact. He was sentenced to eight years in prison with four years of the sentence suspended.

The conviction was affirmed on appeal in October 2013. A new attorney, Robert Sandy Jr., filed petition for post-conviction review. At a hearing on the petition, James Carey, Jonathan’s father, testified that there were longstanding conflicts between Jonathan and Josiah that went well beyond the dispute over the tires. James also testified that Masse was physically abusive to Jonathan, and that he had spoken to Masse while Jonathan was incarcerated and learned that she had taken the money.

The defense also presented evidence for the first time that a friend of A.S.A., identified as H.R., had told a private investigator for Jonathan’s previous defense lawyer that A.S.A. told her that nothing sexual had occurred the night Jonathan had brought in the blanket.

On August 13, 2015, Superior Court Judge Nancy Mills granted the petition and vacated Jonathan’s convictions. Judge Mills ruled that even though Masse did not testify at the third trial, the defense could have presented evidence of the theft through the testimony of Jonathan’s father to show that Masse had a motive to coerce the girls to falsely accuse Jonathan.

The judge noted that there was evidence that A.S.A. did not make the allegation until after Jonathan sent Masse the letter from jail threatening to report the theft of his checks to authorities.

“The allegation that an adult encouraged a young witness to lie is often present in the defense of sex crimes,” Judge Mills declared. “But in this case, there was direct evidence of an adult’s self-interest in ensuring that (Jonathan) remained incarcerated and her direct involvement with her daughter and her daughter’s very close friend, the alleged victims.”

Judge Mills also noted that the defense could have called H.R. to testify that A.S.A had told a different version of events that night that did not involve any sexual contact.

On March 17, 2015, Jonathan was released on bond pending a fourth trial. The prosecution appealed the ruling and in October 2016, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld Judge Mills's ruling.

Jonathan's attorney then filed a motion to dismiss the charges because A.S.A. had been killed in a traffic accident in 2014 and could not testify. He argued that although A.S.A.’s testimony from the third trial was available, she could not be questioned about the new evidence that had been developed since that trial.

The prosecution did not oppose the motion and on February 21, 2017, the charges were dismissed.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 3/25/2017
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2008
Sentence:4 years
Age at the date of reported crime:33
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No