ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — Federal attorneys have decided not to pursue criminal charges against a man who claims he was assaulted by a park ranger, according to people involved in the case.
Tim Wild, 31, of Seal Harbor claims he was knocked unconscious and had four bones in his face broken by a park ranger when he and friends were at the summit of Day Mountain in the early morning hours of Aug. 18. Wild was one of about 45 people, many of them co-workers of Wild’s at the Jordan Pond House restaurant, who had hiked to the top of the mountain as part of an annual tradition by restaurant employees.
Wild claims he was assaulted by one of two rangers who appeared at the mountain summit and detained the group. Wild said that after he had been handcuffed and then verbally objected to the way a ranger was physically treating one of his female co-workers, the ranger threw him face first to the ground.
Wild was charged with disorderly conduct and interfering with agency functions. Katherine Junkert, the co-worker whom Wild said had been given rough treatment, was charged with disorderly conduct, failure to obey a lawful order and being under the influence of alcohol in the park.
This week, the charges were dropped, according to Wild and to his attorney, Jon Holder of Bar Harbor. Holder faxed a copy of a motion to dismiss the charges against Wild, signed Oct. 7 by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel B. Casey, to the Bangor Daily News on Friday afternoon.
“The reason for this motion is that further prosecution of this matter is not in the best interest of the government,” reads the motion to dismiss.
Attempts on Friday to contact prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Casey and U.S. Attorney Paula Silbsy, were unsuccessful.
“The [charges against both] are being dismissed,” Holder said Friday. “The behavior of the rangers was pretty poor. I don’t know why [the ranger who forced Wild to the ground] is not being charged with assault.”
Wild, contacted at the Jordan Pond House on Friday, said he was “very excited” when he found out this week the charges were being dropped.
“I’m pretty close to being fully recovered,” Wild said of his injuries. “I don’t have to have reconstructive surgery on my face, which is great.”
Park officials have said they went to Day Mountain after receiving noise complaints from people in Seal Harbor, where the group began the hike around 11 p.m. Rangers subsequently issued several citations to members of the hiking group related to underage drinking and possession of marijuana.
According to information posted on Acadia National Park’s Web site, people 21 years or older are allowed to possess and consume alcohol in most areas of the park, including Day Mountain. Being intoxicated in the park is illegal.
People who were on the hike have said that, though some of them may have been drinking underage or smoking marijuana, the event was more of a hike than a party and that the rude and rough treatment they received from rangers was unwarranted.
National Park Service officials have declined to comment further on the incident because it is under internal investigation by the agency.
Jill Hawk, the NPS regional chief ranger who is supervising the investigation, said Friday she had heard that the charges against Wild and Junkert were being dismissed but that she had not spoken to anyone with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maine about it. She said any questions about why the charges were being dropped would have to be answered by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Hawk said the internal investigation is continuing and likely will take “awhile” before it is completed. More than 40 witnesses have to be interviewed, she said, and there likely will be more than 1,000 pages of material to sort through.
According to Hawk, Rangers Jim Lyon and Kevin Donnell have been on administrative duty since the incident. They will remain on administrative duty and will not return to their regular law enforcement duties pending the outcome of the NPS investigation, she said.
Wild, a waiter at the Jordan Pond House, said he still plans to take legal action against the National Park Service over the incident. His medical bills total between $4,000 and $5,000, he said, and he lost about $1,000 in income when his injuries caused him to miss a week of work.
Wild said having the charges dismissed, for him, reaffirms his decision to verbally object to the way he and his co-workers were being treated on Day Mountain.
“In one level or another, justice is being served,” Wild said. “Standing up for what’s right is always a good thing to do.”