Vladek Filler was accused of sexually assaulting his wife, Ligia, in April 2007, who told police he had attacked her repeatedly since 2005. At the time of this accusation, and Vladek’s arrest, he and his wife were going through a divorce and battling for custody of their children.
During the divorce, Vladek told his wife he planned to move to Georgia with their two sons to be closer to his mother. After that, according to the University of Michigan’s National Registry of Exonerations (NRE), Ligia “ran into the street from the family home holding one of the boys, yelling that she wanted to kill her husband for molesting and abusing their children and that she feared he would kill their 12-year-old son.”
Vladek’s case wouldn’t go to trial until January 2009, and by that time, a social services investigation found no evidence of child abuse. Ligia testified at trial that Vladek would become angry and force her to have sex with him, one time allegedly because she used his bank account to pay for her haircut. She also claimed Vladek physically assaulted her.
“A physician testified that he could find no signs of sexual abuse. A police officer testified that Ligia had a bruise on her arm which she said was the result of Filler’s abuse,” it says on the NRE.
During trial, Vladek’s defense attorney argued that Ligia only made the claims when it became clear there would be a custody battle, but prosecutor Mary Kellett claimed there was no evidence of such.
Vladek was found guilty of one count of gross sexual assault and two counts of misdemeanor assault. Defense attorneys argued for a new trial, claiming Kellett made improper arguments to the jury. A new trial was granted, over prosecution objections.
Prior to the new trial in 2011, Vladek’s divorce was finalized. The divorce court found no evidence that Vladek raped his wife or abused his children, but did find that Ligia abused the children, made false accusations that they were molested, and publicly threatened to kill her husband.
Vladek was tried again in May 2011, and this time found guilty on one misdemeanor assault charge and sentenced to 21 days in jail. After this conviction was upheld, Vladek filed a complaint to the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar, alleging Kellett had broken bar rules.
It turns out Kellett had objected to the evidence that would show the custody battle. She also withheld exculpatory evidence of interactions Ligia had with police around the times she claims she was assaulted and made no mention of abuse. Kellett also withheld evidence where Ligia admitted to police that the bruise on her arm had appeared three days after Vladek allegedly abused her.
Kellett admitted in 2013 that she violated rules by making an improper argument and withholding exculpatory evidence. She was suspended for one month, but that was vacated and she was allowed her to go through six hours of legal education instead. She’s one of the few prosecutors — and the first in the state of Maine — to be sanctioned for prosecutorial misconduct.
Vladek was finally exonerated in 2015, and he filed a federal lawsuit against those that handled his case, after he discovered more evidence was withheld. A nurse who interviewed Ligia told her to cry during testimony to make her claims more believable. This part was edited out of a recording of the interview.
On Monday, September 24, 2018, Vladek settled his lawsuit for $375,000. Vladek’s attorney told WABI5 News that it was the first case where state prosecutors paid to settle a lawsuit over prosecutorial misconduct. The lawsuit involved more than a dozen defendants, and the case is still pending with one — a friend of Ligia’s.