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Plea agreement drops sex charges against firefighter from North Yarmouth

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Plea agreement drops sex charges against firefighter from North Yarmouth

PORTLAND — A plea agreement was announced Monday that drops misdemeanor charges of unlawful sexual touching and assault against a firefighter from North Yarmouth.

Craig Rawnsley, 42, pleaded guilty to charges he violated conditions of release and disorderly conduct. He must pay $1,000 in fines and was also sentenced to spend two days in jail. Rawnsley has already served that time, his lawyer, Thomas Hallett, said.

Rawnsley, a firefighter in Cumberland and Portland, was accused of sexually abusing two teenage girls. He was found innocent of eight charges of sexual abuse of a minor with the first girl in September. The 17-year-old girl accused Rawnsley of having sex with her eight times between March 1 and July 19, 2008, when she was 15.

Rawnsley also faced four misdemeanor counts involving the second girl's claims, including two for unlawful sexual touching and one each of assault and providing alcohol to a minor. All of those have now been dismissed, Hallett said, along with a charge of witness tampering and one charge of violation of conditions of release.

Rawnsley pleaded guilty to a second charge of violating conditions of release, along with the disorderly conduct charge.

As of September, Rawnsley was on unpaid administrative leave from the Portland Fire Department and was an on-call firefighter on inactive status in Cumberland, where he and the two girls were involved in Cumberland's Explorer youth firefighter training program.

Rawnsley was arrested last October when one of the girls made her accusations. The other girl's claims were made during the ensuing investigation, and Rawnsley pleaded innocent to the charges in January.

Jury selection for Rawnsley's second trial had been set for Monday morning. The case was dropped when Rawnsley accepted the plea deal.

"This was an extraordinarily good deal for (Rawnsley)," Hallett said. "... I was not surprised we were offered a deal that we could not refuse. The sex charges were extraordinarily weak."

Hallett said he and Rawnsley were prepared to go to trial, but that the plea agreement developed quickly at the end of last week.

He said Rawnsley would seek reinstatement of his full-time Portland job.

"He's cleared his name," Hallett said. "There was nothing more that he could do to clear his name. All of the sex charges were dismissed, all of the other significant charges were dismissed, he ended up taking an offer which was too good to turn down. ... We are hopeful that he will get his job back."

Cumberland County Assistant District Attorney Matthew Tice on Tuesday called the plea agreement "a classic compromise," noting that "neither side gets exactly what they want, but that's the nature of a compromise."

He said he thought the finality of the matter was "good for everyone, so I'm happy about that, mostly."

Tice also complimented the girls who had made the allegations.

"I've really got to give a lot of credit to these young victims to come forward and go through this grueling process," he said. "It's a grueling process to go through the courts, especially when they're that young, so I think they're pretty courageous."

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.