JENNIFER L. DEAH
Argued: February 15, 2018
H. Branson, Esq. (orally), Branson Law Office, P.A.,
Portland, for appellant Tristan Cuthbert
Benjamin P Campo, Jr., Esq. (orally), Douglas McDaniel &
Campo LLC, PA, Westbrook, for appellee Jennifer L. Deah
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and
Tristan Cuthbert appeals from an order for protection from
abuse entered in the District Court (Portland, Oram,
J.) following a hearing on a complaint filed by Jennifer
L. Deah. See 19-A M.R.S. §§ 4002(1),
4007(1) (2017). Cuthbert contends that the court erred and
disregarded substantial evidence in its ultimate finding that
he abused Deah. Cuthbert also challenges the court's
application of the best evidence rule, M.R. Evid. 1002, when
it required him to allow Deah to review either printed copies
or the electronic versions of emails and texts prior to his
cross-examination of her. Because the court did not err in
its findings or abuse its discretion in its evidentiary
rulings, we affirm the judgment.
Deah filed a petition for a protection from abuse order
against her boyfriend, Cuthbert, in July 2017. The court held
a final hearing on the complaint on August 11, 2017. Both
parties were represented by counsel. During the hearing, Deah
testified about several incidents of Cuthbert's
aggression towards her-two of which involved Cuthbert kicking
her, pushing her, and hitting her.
Deah also testified that a third incident occurred on July 5,
2017. While staying at a home that Cuthbert used in western
Maine, Deah and Cuthbert had a disagreement. Cuthbert began
"slamming things around, " and the situation
escalated. Cuthbert kicked Deah and threw a bookcase at her.
He then took a bottle of charcoal lighter fluid, sprayed it
over Deah, grabbed a lighter, and threatened to kill her.
Deah left the house and went to her car. Cuthbert followed.
Deah began backing her car out of the driveway when Cuthbert
reached through her open driver's side window with the
lighter and started clicking it, attempting to produce a
flame. Deah tried to defend herself through the window,
during which time Cuthbert caused significant damage to her
vehicle. Deah testified that she was terrified that Cuthbert
was going to light her on fire and kill her.
During cross-examination of Deah, Cuthbert sought to have
Deah look at "a whole stack" of printouts of text
messages and emails that he claimed were sent by Deah. Citing
the best evidence rule, M.R. Evid. 1002, counsel for Deah
argued that he and Deah had a right to view the originals to
determine whether the printouts were accurate.
The court ruled that Cuthbert must either (1) show Deah the
original texts and emails from Cuthbert's phone itself or
(2) provide the printouts of the texts and emails to Deah,
prior to his cross-examination of her, so that she could
review them and determine whether there were any disputes
about their authenticity. The court then took a brief recess
so that Cuthbert could show Deah the original texts and
emails or the printouts.
After allowing Deah to review the printouts of the text
messages and emails, Cuthbert questioned her about certain
messages. During questioning, Cuthbert read some of the texts
aloud, and Deah testified as to whether she sent the
messages. After reading the messages and having Deah
acknowledge that she sent the messages, Cuthbert sought to
enter the documents in evidence. Because Cuthbert had not had
Deah authenticate all of the messages in one exhibit, the
court sustained Deah's objection to admitting that
exhibit. The court noted that some of the messages were
already in evidence, having been read by Cuthbert and
acknowledged by Deah.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the court found that
Cuthbert had abused Deah and issued a two-year protection
order. Cuthbert ...