At last, Vladek Filler is a free man. Oh, he’s been “free,” as in “no longer in jail,” for over two years. But when I say “free,” I mean free of all the consequences of the vendetta waged against him by his ex-wife and a shamefully corrupt Ellsworth, Maine prosecutor’s office that stopped at nothing to railroad an innocent man.
That man, Vladek Filler, has always been factually innocent, but now he’s officially, legally so. A state appeals court quashed his conviction of assault, the only prize former District Attorney Carletta Bossano’s office had to show for its relentless hounding of him.
It all started some eight years ago when, in the midst of their divorce and child custody fight, Vladek’s wife, Ligia Filler, claimed that he had raped her. Despite the fact that he had no police record, that the claim occurred during a child custody battle and that Ligia Filler was obviously emotionally unstable, Assistant District Attorney, Mary Kellett pursued the case against Filler with a zeal borne, not of a desire for justice, but of a desire for blood.
Kellett’s behavior in Filler’s case was not merely morally and ethically wrong, although it was both those things. It apparently was the product of her blind faith in the notion that women never lie about rape. I say that because of the multiple other rape and sexual assault cases prosecuted by Kellett that were either overturned on appeal or that she lost outright. Most prosecutors have a sense of when to charge a case, when to take one to trial and when an accused is probably innocent. Kellett seems to have had no such sense, at least when it came to sexual assault charges.
Otherwise, why did she not offer Vladek the dismissal the facts of his case so clearly warranted? Put simply, all Kellett had was the word of a woman who had every reason to lie and on whose behalf there was literally no evidence. Most prosecutors can see such a case for what it is — a sure loser.
Not only that, but the family court judge that viewed the same evidence Kellett did gave primary custody to Vladek, not his wife. How likely is it that a family court judge would place children with a father if the judge had the slightest inkling that the father might have done what his wife claimed? Without a doubt, that judge saw the truth — an emotionally disabled mother making wild, unsubstantiated charges against her husband for the sole purpose of keeping him out of his children’s lives.
Mary Kellett didn’t care. She knew, as few others did, that she would violate any rule of prosecutorial ethics and criminal procedure in order to put an innocent man in prison. And she almost succeeded. Filler was at first convicted, but the very judge who heard his trial for rape overturned the conviction on — of course — the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct.
But Kellett wasn’t finished. Ligia also claimed that Vladek had tossed water on her during an argument. Now, most prosecutors wouldn’t waste their time on such a trivial matter, particularly since, once again, there was no evidence that Vladek had done any such thing. But again, he was convicted, and again it was due to Kellett’s misconduct. Filler served 21 days in jail.
It is that conviction that the appellate court overturned on April 24th. It too was the product of Kellett’s many ethical violations.
But Filler is not a man to allow injustice to run free in the streets. Not content with complete vindication of all his actions by courts of law, he took on the District Attorney’s Office and Mary Kellett specifically, filing a grievance against her for her blatant wrongdoing.
He won that one too. Mary Kellett now has the distinction of being the only prosecutor in the history of the state to have been suspended from the practice of law due to her ethical violations while in the service of the people of the county.
But even that isn’t the end of the story. In last year’s election, DA Bossano was ousted from office due in no small part to her failure to oversee the corrupt behavior of her subordinate, Kellett.
In short, Vladek Filler’s story is that of a lone man standing up to a system of criminal prosecution that was all too used to running roughshod over men accused of sexual assault. What Mary Kellett did in Filler’s case are the actions of a lawyer to whom it never occurs that there might be adverse consequences to her violations of law. Almost certainly, she’d done similar things countless times before and was astonished when one person stood up and shouted “Halt!”
Mary Kellett is now out of a job and has a black mark on her record as an attorney.
If this had been an NBA championship series, Vladek Filler would have swept the opposition. Eight years later, he has his children and his criminal record is unblemished. He is indeed a free man.
What he doesn’t have, though, is his good name. Oh, the people who know him admire him and he has the love of his children and the avid support of his sister who did yeoman service on his behalf throughout his legal ordeal.
But the same Maine news media that were all too eager to shout from the rooftops allegations made against him, that reported his convictions, that unquestioningly channeled Ligia’s false claims and Kellett’s false statements about the case have suddenly gone quiet. Yes, those who were happy to convict an innocent man in their own court — that of public opinion — don’t care to report the fact that, at long last, he’s not guilty of the offenses charged. So far, not a word of his exoneration has been reported in the local or state news media.
In its own way, that’s every bit as shameful as Mary Kellett’s illegal, immoral and unethical conduct.
But in the end, Vladek Filler is the last man standing. For eight years, he stood against the enormous power of the state criminal justice system and won. That’s something for every reader of this blog to ponder. Vladek Filler’s grit and determination have been rewarded. Maybe yours can be as well.
And perhaps best of all, there are two kids (no longer little) down in Georgia who have a father they can look up to. They too can learn a thing or two about the power of being right and not backing down. Those kids may not yet realize it, but they’ve got a dad whose example will serve them all their lives.