ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — Federal prosecutors’ decision to take no action against three rangers who were accused of wrongdoing in an incident last summer came months after the conclusion of an internal investigation into the incident, a National Park Service spokesman indicated Tuesday.
In the Aug. 18, 2008, incident on Day Mountain, a Jordan Pond House employee was knocked unconscious.
Gerry Gaumer, public affairs specialist at National Park Service headquarters in Washington, D.C., said Tuesday that the U.S. Attorney’s Office decided last week not to pursue action against Rangers James Lyon, Louis Jahrling and Kevin Donnell in the incident. The prosecutors’ decision came months after National Park Service investigators in Philadelphia concluded an internal investigation into the incident, he said.
Gaumer said the U.S. Attorney’s Office decided the incident did not warrant any charges of excessive use of force against the rangers involved.
“As far as I know, all three [rangers] are still working [in Acadia] and are doing a good job,” Gaumer said.
Timothy Wild, 32, of Portland, Ore., who is working at the Jordan Pond House again this summer, maintains that Lyon used excessive force against him after Lyon and Jahrling detained a group of about 40 people at the summit of Day Mountain in the early morning hours of Aug. 18, 2008. Donnell is a supervising ranger who arrived at the scene after Lyon and Jahrling initially detained the group.
Lyon and Donnell subsequently were placed on administrative duty while the National Park Service was investigating the incident.
Wild’s attorney, Jon Holder of Bar Harbor, has indicated that Wild plans to sue the park service over the incident and his resulting injuries, which included four fractured bones in his face.
Holder said Tuesday that earlier this year he notified the park service that he planned to file a tort claim lawsuit against the agency on behalf of Wild. He said he is required to wait six months after notifying the park service before he can sue the agency for damages in federal court.
That six-month period will end Friday, Aug. 14, Holder said, but he likely will not file the complaint in U.S. District Court in Bangor until sometime next week. He said he plans to seek unspecified monetary damages but that he’ll argue for “at least” several thousand dollars to reimburse Wild for his medical expenses and about a week’s worth of lost wages immediately after the incident. This amount does not include damages for emotional distress, pain, suffering and other related issues, the attorney said.
Holder said he also filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the park service for a copy of the report that resulted from the internal investigation of the Day Mountain incident, but the request was denied. He also may file suit over the denied Freedom of Information Act request, he said.
“Namely, I’d like to see what is behind this report,” Holder said.
According to people who were present during the incident last year, most of the people at the gathering were Jordan Pond House employees, who have a tradition of taking a midnight hike to the summit each summer. The annual event is not organized or sanctioned by Acadia Corp., the company that has concessions with Acadia to run the restaurant and three gift shops in the park.
Lyon and Jahrling detained the group after park officials received a complaint and became concerned that there might be underage drinking or other illegal activity at the gathering. Consumption of alcohol is legal in many sites throughout Acadia, including at Day Mountain, but underage drinking, public intoxication and possession of marijuana all are prohibited.
Wild, who said he consumed one beer earlier in the evening and addressed the rangers with profanity, was subdued by Lyon after he vocally objected to what he said was rude and physically rough treatment by rangers of Katherine Junkert, another Jordan Pond House employee who was on the outing. Lyon, Wild claims, threw him face-first to the ground, knocking him unconscious and injuring his face, left shoulder and right wrist.
Wild later was taken by ambulance to a Bar Harbor hospital for treatment of his injuries.
Wild claims he had been handcuffed by Lyon before Lyon threw him to the ground. In an internal National Park Service report Lyon later wrote about the incident, the ranger indicated that he was trying to handcuff Wild when he forced Wild to the ground.
Wild and Junkert each were charged with multiple violations of the law. Wild was charged with disorderly conduct and interfering with agency functions. Junkert was charged with disorderly conduct, failure to obey a lawful order and being under the influence of alcohol in the park.
Federal prosecutors decided later to drop all charges against Wild and Junkert. Others who had hiked to the top of Day Mountain with the group were summoned and ended up paying fines on other charges such as underage drinking and possession of marijuana, according to park officials.