Argued: March 5, 2019
S. Robinson, District Attorney, and Joseph M. O'Connor,
Asst. Dist. Atty. (orally), Office of the District Attorney,
South Paris, for appellant State of Maine
A. McNamara, Esq. (orally), Drake Law, LLC, Berwick, for
appellee Matthew C. Reed-Hansen
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HJELM,
In this unusual appeal, the State challenges an order of the
court (Oxford County, L. Walker, J.) imposing a
significant discovery sanction following the State's
failure to provide to the defendant a dash-cam video of the
defendant ostensibly committing the crime for which he was
charged. The State challenges both the finding of a discovery
violation and the judge's choice of sanction. We discern
no error or abuse of discretion, and we affirm the
Matthew C. Reed-Hansen was stopped by a Maine State Police
trooper for having an expired inspection sticker. As a result
of the stop, he was charged with and indicted for operating
after revocation (Class C), 29-A M.R.S. § 2557-A(2)(B)
(2018), and he made his initial appearance on December 6,
2017. The ensuing indictment, dated December 14, 2017,
alleged that on December 5, 2017, Reed-Hansen was operating a
motor vehicle on a public way after his license had been
revoked. Shortly after he was indicted, Reed-Hansen sent the
State a "standard discovery request letter request[ing]
any and all video or audio that would have been created as
part of this stop," see M.R.U. Crim. P. 16(c).
The State did not provide Reed-Hansen with any video or audio
in response to that request, and, as was later shown, the
prosecutor did not make an effort to determine if any such
Reed-Hansen was arraigned on the indictment on February 21,
2018, at which time the court held a dispositional
conference, and the matter was not resolved. The following
day, pursuant to M.R.U. Crim. P. 12(b)(3)(A), Reed-Hansen
filed a motion to suppress the evidence from the stop.
See M.R.U. Crim. P. 41A. A hearing on the motion to
suppress was held on May 11, 2018.
[¶4] The only witness for the State at the hearing was
the trooper, who testified that he saw the expired sticker as
Reed-Hansen passed him, coming from the opposite direction.
He estimated that both he and Reed-Hansen were traveling at
approximately fifty miles per hour. In response to a question
from Reed-Hanson at the hearing, the trooper confirmed that
he was running a dash-cam at the time Reed-Hansen drove by
him. The court stopped the hearing in order to allow the
parties to address the discovery failure.
The trooper was quickly able to obtain a copy of the video
for both parties to review. The court heard a consistent
description of the brief video from the parties, and the
State conceded that, although the video had been requested by
Reed-Hansen pursuant to Rule 16(c), the trooper had not been
asked for the video and it had not been turned over to the
defendant. Reed-Hansen requested that the court grant his
motion to suppress as a sanction for the State's
discovery violation. See M.R.U. Crim. P. 16(c), (e).
Rather than suggesting a continuance or other remedy, the
State repeatedly insisted that there was no harm to
Reed-Hansen arising from its failure to turn the video over
because the video had no "evidentiary value" and
the State did not "hear... any claim of any prejudice
against the Defendant as a result of this."
[¶7] The court's patience was obviously tried by the
State's continued insistence that the video showing
the alleged crime being committed had no
"evidentiary value." The State's response was
puzzling: "It does show the vehicle approaching. It
shows the police officer turning around and pursuing him. I
don't think there's anything of evidentiary value
...." Given the State's unfounded insistence that
there was no harm from the discovery violation, and the
State's failure to suggest any reasonable alternative to
Reed-Hansen's motion, the court granted Reed-Hansen's
request, ordering that "all evidence obtained as a
result of the stop is ORDERED suppressed from use at trial...
[a]s a sanction for the State's discovery violation for
failing to produce [the] video."
Responding to the State's motion for findings, the court
issued an order making additional findings of facts and
stating its conclusions of law. In its order, the court
rebuked the State for its approach to its discovery
obligations and affirmed its earlier order granting
Reed-Hansen's motion to suppress. See M.R.U.
Crim. P. 4lA(d). With the written approval of Attorney