Argued: February 8, 2017
F. Harding, Esq. (orally), Hardings Law Office, Presque Isle,
for appellant Andrew J. Legassie.
Mitchell, Assistant District Attorney (orally), Prosecutorial
District 8, Caribou, for appellee State of Maine.
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and
In this appeal, we address the intersection of the digital
world of social media and our criminal statutes and rules of
The victims of the charges at issue here are five teenage
girls, designated in the trial courts order as Victims A, B,
C, D, and E. At the time of the alleged offenses, the
victims ranged in age from fourteen to seventeen years old.
Each victim received from the defendant explicit digital
images, which were admitted in evidence as States Exhibits 2,
5, 6, and 7, and digital messages. The trial court found that
the defendant confessed to creating those digital images and
sending them by social media to many young girls, including
the victims. There is no evidence of any in-person contact
that formed the basis of the alleged crimes.
We must decide if the crime of indecent conduct (Class E),
17-A M.R.S. § 854(1)(B) (2016), can be committed solely
through the electronic transmission of images of ones
genitals. We must also decide if M.R. Evid. 1002, requiring
introduction of original writings, recordings or photographs,
when available, requires the exclusion of the victims
testimony about digital messages that they received from the
Andrew J. Legassie appeals from a judgment of conviction of
three counts of attempted sexual exploitation of a minor
(Class C), 17-A M.R.S. § 152(1)(C) (2016); 17-A M.R.S.
§ 282(1)(A) (2014), one count of sexual exploitation of
a minor (Class B), 17-A M.R.S. § 282(1)(A),
count of attempted sexual abuse of a minor (Class E), 17-A
M.R.S. § 152(1)(E) (2016); 17-A M.R.S. § 254(1)(A)
(2016), and five counts of indecent conduct (Class E), 17-A
M.R.S. § 854(1)(B), following a bench trial in the
Superior Court (Aroostook County, Hunter, J.). For
the reasons set forth below, we affirm in part and vacate in
part and remand for further proceedings.
In December 2013, Legassie added Victim A as a
"friend" on the social media platform Facebook and
began sending her messages through Facebook
Messenger. At that time, Legassie was twenty-one
years old and Victim A was fifteen. Legassie purported to
know her from working as a referee for her high school teams
basketball games. In the beginning, the messages concerned
basketball, but Legassie gradually steered the conversation
toward sex. He began by complimenting Victim A on her
appearance, moved to asking whether she had ever had sex, and
then progressed to implying and eventually stating explicitly
that they should have sex. He stated in several messages that
they should meet. Legassie asked Victim A for pictures of
herself, asking her to put on a jersey "and have nothing
else one [sic] and send me a pic" and "let
me see them legss [sic] and behind." Legassie
later sent Victim A a picture of himself in his bedroom
exposing his genitals. A computer printout of the Facebook
messages exchanged between Legassie and Victim A was produced
and admitted in evidence.
Legassie also added fifteen-year-old Victim B as a Facebook
friend and sent her messages. Legassies messages advanced to
sexual topics; Legassie asked Victim B for "naked
pictures" of herself and told her he wanted to have sex
with her. Legassie sent her the same picture of himself
exposing his genitals. After Victim B received the nude
picture of Legassie, she removed him as a friend on Facebook
and deleted the messages that they had exchanged.
Legassie continued a similar pattern of behavior on Facebook
with other teenage girls during the same period. Legassie
added seventeen-year-old Victim C as a friend on Facebook and
sent her four nude photos of himself through Facebook
Messenger. He added fourteen-year-old Victim D as a friend,
sent her messages asking for pictures and eventually for sex,
and sent her the same nude photos. Legassie also added Victim
E as a friend, sent her messages, and asked her for nude
photos, and she sent him two photos: one of her breasts and
one of her genitals. Victim E was sixteen at the time. After
Victim E sent photos of herself, Legassie sent her three of
the nude photos of himself, including the photo of him
exposing his genitals in his bedroom.
On July 11, 2014, the State charged Legassie by indictment
with seven counts of attempted sexual exploitation of a minor
(Counts 1-7), one count of attempted sexual abuse of a minor
(Count 8), twelve counts of indecent conduct (Counts 9-18,
26, 28), seven counts of violating a condition of release
(Counts 19-25), and two counts of sexual exploitation of a
minor (Counts 27 and 29).
The court held a bench trial on October 13, 2015. During the
trial, Legassie objected to testimony by each victim about
the content of the Facebook messages on the basis that the
evidence contravened M.R. Evid. 1002, the "Requirement
of the Original" rule, also referred to as the
"best evidence" rule. In a memorandum submitted
after trial, Legassie also argued that the evidence of
photographs was insufficient to support his convictions for
indecent conduct because the statute requires that the
exposure of genitals occur in the physical presence of
In a written decision dated February 25, 2016, the court
determined that the best evidence rule did not apply because
the specific content of the messages was not material to the
charges; rather, the court found that the States proof relied
on "the general import" of what Legassie wanted
from the victims and what he sent to them. The court further
found that Legassie exposed his genitals while in a private
place, took a picture, and sent that picture to the victims
with the intent that they see his genitals. It concluded that
he was therefore guilty of the indecent conduct charges. The
court noted that the indecent conduct statutes plain language
does not "restrict or limit the manner in which
[indecent conduct] can be committed." The court thus
found Legassie guilty of three counts of attempted sexual
exploitation of a minor, one count of sexual exploitation of
a minor, one count of attempted sexual abuse of a minor, and
five counts of indecent conduct. The court found Legassie not
guilty of the remaining counts charged in the indictment.
On March 24, 2016, the court sentenced Legassie to the
• four years, all but nine months and one day suspended
with three years of probation, on Count 27;
• thirty days on Count 26, ninety days on Count 6, and
thirty days on Count 12, to be served concurrently with each
other and consecutive to the other sentences;
• sixty days on Count 1, thirty days on Count 8, and
thirty days on Count 9, to be served concurrently with each
other and consecutively to Counts 26, 6, and 12;
• sixty days on Count 2 and thirty days on Count 10,
concurrent with each other and consecutive to the other
• thirty days on Count 11, to be served consecutively
with the other sentences.
the entry of the judgment, Legassie timely appealed.
See 15 M.R.S. §2115 (2016); M.R. App. P. 2.
Legassie argues that the court erred in interpreting the
indecent conduct statute, 17-A M.R.S. § 854. The
statutory provision pursuant to which Legassie was convicted
provides that "[a] person is guilty of indecent conduct
if... [i]n a private place, the actor exposes the actors
genitals with the intent that the actor be seen from a public
place or from another private place." 17-AM.R.S.
The interpretation of 17-AM.R.S. § 854 is a question of
law that we review de novo. State v. Pinkham, 2016
ME 59, ¶ 14, 137 A.3d 203. We first look to the
statutory language to discern the Legislatures intent.
Id. "We look to legislative history and other
extraneous aids in interpretation of a statute only when we
have determined that the statute is ambiguous."
Carrier v. Sec'y of State, 2012 ME 142, ¶
12, 60 A.3d 1241 (quotation marks omitted). "A statute
is ambiguous if it is reasonably susceptible to different
interpretations." Id. (quotation marks
omitted). "[W]e must construe a statute to preserve its
constitutionality, or to avoid an unconstitutional
application of the statute, if at all possible."
Nader v. Me. Democratic Party, 2012 ME 57, ¶
19, 41 A.3d 551. In the context of criminal statutes, our
interpretation is also "guided by two interrelated rules
of statutory construction: the rule of lenity, and the rule
of strict construction .... Pursuant to each of these rules,
any ambiguity left unresolved by a strict construction of the
statute must be resolved in the defendants favor."
State v. Lowden, 2014 ME 29, ¶ 15, 87 A.3d 694
(citations omitted) (quotation marks omitted).
Title 17-A M.R.S. § 854 ...