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Eliot Cutler to change plea after being accused of possessing child sexual abuse images

Eliot Cutler speaks at a news conference, Nov. 3, 2010, in Portland, Maine.
Joel Page
AP file
Eliot Cutler speaks at a news conference, Nov. 3, 2010, in Portland, Maine.

Former gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler has reached a tentative plea deal with prosecutors over his alleged possession of sexually explicit material involving minors.

Cutler, who ran for governor twice as an independent, was arrested a little more than a year ago after police searched his homes in Brooklin and Portland and seized numerous electronic devices. Police launched the investigation after receiving a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which operates a Cyber Tipline where people, internet service providers and social media platforms can report suspected abuse.

Hancock County District Attorney Robert Granger said Tuesday that Cutler could plead guilty or no-contest on the four felony charges during the hearing on May 4. But Granger said Cutler has agreed to take responsibility for his actions.

"The end result will be the same: it will result in a conviction,” Granger said. “And we are proceeding on all four counts in the complaint. He was never indicted because we reached this agreement and he is going to waive indictment."

Without going into specifics, Granger says the anticipated agreement is that Cutler's sentence will include a period of incarceration and probation after his release, which he said is consistent with other similar cases. A judge will have to sign-off on the plea deal and will review sentences in other cases.

Cutler is a wealthy businessman who finished second behind Republican Gov. Paul LePage during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign. He became a prominent voice both in Maine and nationally for eschewing party politics. But he finished third during the 2014 gubernatorial election.

He was arrested last March and quickly released from jail after posting bond last March. His defense attorney, Walt McKee, could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday. Additional details of the charges against Cutler and his alleged offense will become public during the court hearing next month.