DA: No Charges to Come from Carlson Investigation because of State Law
State Police officials said Monday they plan to reverse course and hand over their report on the child sexual abuse investigation into Rev. Robert Carlson to the Penobscot County District Attorney’s office.Carlson committed suicide in November after he learned he was under investigation.The report, released last week, suggests many people who knew and worked with Carlson missed warning signs about his behavior or didn’t report them, which begs the question, should they face charges? According to state prosecutor, Chris Almy, they can’t. “The law was not written correctly. The legislature needs to fix this statute,” said Almy.Almy hasn’t even seen the report yet, but said it won’t make any difference because the state law, known as the Mandated Reporting of Abuse and Neglect, doesn’t allow him to prosecute anyone who has violated its requirements. Under the provision, professionals working in 32 areas, ranging from mental health to dentistry, have to alert authorities to cases of abuse.”All it says is this group of people must report child abuse. It doesn’t say what the penalty is if they don’t,” said Almy.In the report, police interviews outline a timeline of troublesome behavior by Carlson that seems to have gone unnoticed or unreported by Bangor area law enforcement, educators, and mental health professionals. During one interview, an unnamed therapist said he or she counseled half a dozen of Carlson’s victims in the past, but never reported it. In another, a former Penobscot County Sheriff’s employee told police he once witnessed Carlson bring young boys into county dispatch at 1:00 in the morning. He, too, never reported it. “The law requires that the legislature designate a failure to report child abuse as a crime, felony, Class D crime, Class E crime or a civil violation. They did not do that and they did not provide any penalty. So, there’s nothing that I can do as a prosecutor until the legislature fixes the law,” said Almy.But according to state lawmaker, Sen. Bill Diamond (D), it’s not necessarily the legislature’s fault. Until now, the law has not been a problem.”It just hasn’t been raised until now for the most part. At least, I don’t recall anyone, legislators or district attorneys or anyone, bringing that issue forward. It’s not like it’s been rejected. So, it probably is time to look at that, increasing the penalties. I think there probably should be emphasis put on that, so that people not have a tendency in some cases to circle the wagons to protect one of their own,” said Diamond.Amending the law to have penalties might raise new questions about the law, though, which Almy fears could lead some to punish the wrong people.He said, “What degree of knowledge would a person have to have that would require them to report? Actual knowledge? Or just suspicion? Or intuition? Because that could really open a Pandora’s Box.”But without answers to define the law, prosecutors might not be able to do right by victims.