The Maine High Court has vacated the conviction of a former music teacher who had been accused of sexually abusing a girl who was between the ages of 12 and 13 years old in 2004.

William Wiley, 43, formerly of Searsport, was convicted on 10 counts of unlawful sexual contact with a girl under the age of 14 following his trial at Waldo County Superior Court in April 2011. Jurors also found Wiley not guilty on one charge of gross sexual assault.

The alleged victim in the case — who was not a student of Wiley's — told police Wiley molested her for about six months in 2004. She testified during Wiley's trial that she did not report the abuse until disclosing it to friends in 2009.

According to the decision from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court dated Thursday, March 14, Justices Jon D. Levy, Warren M. Silver, Andrew M. Mead and Joseph M. Jabar supported overturning the conviction, while Justices Donald G. Alexander, Ellen A. Gorman and Chief Justice Leigh I. Saufley disagreed with the decision.

"Because we conclude that Wiley’s statements were not voluntary, we vacate the judgment of conviction and remand for further proceedings," stated the decision. The decision further stated the case would be "remanded to the Superior Court for a new trial consistent with this opinion."

In his appeal, Wiley, who has been free on post-conviction bail since his sentencing hearing during the fall of 2011, contended that the court erred in denying his motion to suppress statements he made to Detective Jason Bosco of the Waldo County Sheriff's Office because they were involuntary. Wiley further argued, through his attorney, Steven Peterson, that he was subject to a police interview without first being advised of his Miranda rights.

"Wiley contends that his statements to the detective prior to and after arrest were involuntary because he made the statements while under severe emotional distress; the detective induced his statements by making offers of leniency; and the detective induced his statements with threats of what his family would have to endure if he did not admit to his sexual abuse of the victim," stated the court record.

The four justices who supported overturning the conviction stated that because Bosco suggested during the interview that Wiley might receive a more lenient sentence if he confessed, Wiley offered involuntary statements about the crimes he was accused of committing.

"Considering the circumstances as a whole, and mindful that it is the state that bore the burden to prove voluntariness beyond a reasonable doubt, we conclude that the finding that Detective Bosco 'did not engage in any conduct or invoke any techniques that would render the defendant’s statements involuntary' was clear error," stated the decision. "Wiley’s motion should have been granted."

A minority report from the dissenting justices, however, supported the original decision from Superior Court Justice Jeffrey Hjelm to deny Wiley's motion.

"The suppression hearing record supports the trial court’s finding that the detective 'did not engage in any conduct or invoke any techniques that would render the defendant’s statements involuntary. Thus, there was no state action undermining the defendant’s free will.' This statement would be a factual error only if one interprets this trial court finding, as the Court apparently does, to state that the detective did not make any promises or inducements or apply any techniques to secure Wiley’s confession. However, a fair interpretation of the trial court’s statement is that, although there were suggestions, even promises, of leniency if Wiley cooperated, those suggestions did not go beyond the bounds established by precedent for such investigatory questioning and, accordingly, were not improper conduct or techniques 'that would render [Wiley’s] statements involuntary.'"

In the fall of 2011, Justice Anne Murray ordered Wiley to serve 15 years with all but three years suspended, to be followed by six years of probation upon his release. But Murray also sided with the defense in her decision to allow Wiley to remain free on post-conviction bail until the Maine Law Court considered his appeal.

During Wiley's sentencing hearing, Waldo County Deputy District Attorney Eric Walker added that it is unusual for a defendant to be allowed a delayed sentence pending the outcome of an appeal in a case like this, noting that the court had historically ordered those accused of similar crimes to be held without bail after being convicted. Walker also argued that Wiley was a flight risk because he knew he was facing jail time.

"If anything, Mr. Wiley now knows his fate," said Walker.

Peterson stressed that his client intended to challenge the merits of the court's decision to deny Wiley's motion to suppress statements he made during his interview with Bosco.

"It would be an irreversible injustice to have him sitting in jail for six to nine months and then learn that his conviction had been overturned," Peterson said.