False Hope

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‘We’re not getting anywhere’: A judge’s day enforcing victim restitution orders

Steven Bell appears before Judge Gregory Campbell on Aug. 20 in Bangor District Court for a hearing on his restitution order

On the afternoon of Aug. 20, three offenders who owe victims restitution came before District Court Judge Gregory Campbell in his Bangor courtroom. Their cases illustrate common issues the courts have in enforcing restitution agreements. One had been successfully paying back restitution — little by little — on a payment plan; another had failed to stick to a payment plan; and the third left promising to return with money, and never returned. Continue Reading →

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Chief judge: Restitution “system is imperfect and we know it”

Kennebec County Courthouse, Augusta

A Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting investigation has found that the state system for compensating victims of non-violent crimes is overburdened, uncoordinated and promises what it can’t deliver.

“The system is imperfect and we know it,” said Judge Charles LaVerdiere, chief judge of the Maine District Court.

He said that as a judge in Maine, he’s found that the “vast majority” of people who come to court and agree to restitution payments find out later that they don’t have the ability to pay as promised. Continue Reading →

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Crime victims have little help getting their due from the system

Justice test

For Linda Descoteaux of Saco, the last nine years have been full of calls, letters and promises from Maine courts that go unfulfilled.

When a man defrauded her of $4,000 in 2005, the York County district attorney’s office sent her a letter saying he’d pay her back part of what he stole by 2009.

“[H]e will pay you restitution in the amount of $1,500 by the 46th month of probation,” wrote York County Courthouse Assistant District Attorney Patrick Gordon in a letter dated September, 7, 2005.

Since then, she said she’s only received a single $110.66 check. Continue Reading →

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‘Fundamental reality’: State’s system for helping crime victims a failure

Geoffrey Rushlau, district attorney for Sagadahoc, Waldo, Lincoln and Knox counties

District attorneys from across the state are as frustrated as crime victims with the fundamental reality of the restitution system in Maine: it’s broken. Maine crime victims are waiting for millions of dollars – perhaps as much as $12 million – in payments ordered by the courts from the people who stole their money, broke into their car or burglarized their home. Continue Reading →

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Veterans’ group victimized by $50k fraud — and then by justice system

Members of the York American Legion Post 56. Left to right_ Jim Fitzpatrick, Kandace Minihane, Bill Hallisey, Commander Robin Greene, Chuck Arboch, Pete Doe, and Robert Seeley

In 1977, the Maine legislature amended the state criminal code to require courts to consider ordering restitution because it can “reinforce the offender’s sense of responsibility,” let him pay back his debt to society and the victim, and “ease the burden of the victim.” But 37 years later, this has long been easier said than done, with those assigned the task of collecting restitution pointing to the futility of trying to get money from poor offenders. They cite a variant of the cliché: “It’s like trying to get blood from a turnip.” Continue Reading →

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