Protesters at LURC meeting released on bail

Posted Sept. 24, 2009, at 8:36 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:11 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The six protesters arrested Wednesday during the Land Use Regulation Commission’s meeting in which it approved Plum Creek’s development plan quickly made bail and were released

Jessica Dowling, 28, of Searsmont; Megan Gilmartin, 25, of Corinth; James Freeman, 60, of Verona Island; Emily Posner, 28, of Montville; Ryan Clarke, 27, of Corinth; and Christian Neils, 32, of Appleton were charged with disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing.

Neils also faces charges for resisting arrest and carrying a concealed knife.

They are scheduled to appear in 3rd District Court in Bangor on Nov. 5 on charges stemming from their refusal to leave LURC’s meeting at the Ramada Inn on the Odlin Road in Bangor when asked to by Bangor police.

Bail was set Wednesday at $500 unsecured, according to personnel at the Penobscot County Jail. Defendants were not required to give cash to a bail bondsman to be released. If they do not appear for scheduled court appearances, they would have to pay the $500 bail.

If convicted, they face up to six months in jail and fines of up to $1,000 on each of the disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing charges. Neils also faces up to a year in prison and fines of up to $2,000 on each of his additional charges.

Judges have some discretion in sentencing people who break the law as part of a protest. In the past, some have increased fines and the number of hours of community service to be served with subsequent arrests. Others have imposed 24-hour jail sentences for second or third offenses in combination with fines.

In some cases in Penobscot County, defendants have requested jail sentences or community service in lieu of fines.

Most often, a joint sentencing recommendation has been made to a judge by the prosecuting attorney and the defendant and his or her attorney.

At least three of the six protesters have been arrested before, according to information previously published by the Bangor Daily News. Gilmartin was arrested by Bangor police in March 2003 on a criminal trespassing charge during a protest against the Iraq War at Sen. Olympia Snowe’s office. Gilmartin also was arrested in September 2008 at LURC’s office in Augusta.

Information about the exact disposition of the 2003 case was not available Wednesday. Gilmartin and three others were sentenced earlier this year to 60 hours of community service and were ordered to pay $328 to a locksmith called to unlock the protesters who had chained themselves together at the LURC office, according to Evert Fowle, district attorney for Kennebec County.

Posner also was charged with trespassing in November 2007 when she and two others were caught videotaping and taking still photographs of the outside of Plum Creek’s office in Greenville. The charges were later dropped.

In addition, Gilmartin, Posner and three others last year sued the Maine State Police in Penobscot County Superior Court to get access to copies of files the law enforcement agency may have on their activities. The Maine Attorney General’s Office opposed the release of the documents.

Superior Court Justice William Anderson is reviewing the files to determine what may be part of an ongoing investigation and not public under the state’s Freedom of Access law and what information the plaintiffs may have. There is no timetable under which his decision must be made.

Freeman and five others were found not guilty of criminal trespass by a Penobscot County jury in April 2008. Freeman was one of a dozen people arrested the previous March at the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building in Bangor protesting the Iraq war. Sen. Susan Collins’ district office is in the building.

Six chose to plead no contest to the charge and were ordered to pay fines. The other six went to trial.

The latest arrests came Wednesday just as the commissioners were preparing to vote, when several protesters associated with the environmental activist group Maine Earth First! rushed to the front of the room and locked arms with one another while denouncing LURC’s process as well as Plum Creek.

Police quickly moved in to clear the protesters, most of whom were carried from the room after refusing to cooperate.

“Just so you know, Plum Creek, this is just the beginning,” shouted one protester as she was being removed from the room. “We will be here every step of the way.”

jharrison@bangordailynews.net

990-8207

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