BANGOR, Maine — The six protesters arrested Sept. 23 during the Land Use Regulation Commission’s meeting in which it approved Plum Creek’s development plan pleaded not guilty Thursday and asked for a jury trial in Superior Court.
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 in connection with their alleged disruption of and refusal to leave the Bangor Ramada Inn, where the LURC session was being held. Neils also faces charges for resisting arrest and carrying a concealed knife.
A trial date in the new Penobscot Judicial Center has not been set. District Court Judge Robert “Buddy” Murray on Thursday allowed the defendants to remain free on $500 unsecured bail with a condition that they not return to the Ramada Inn on Odlin Road.
A bail condition that they abide by a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew was removed last month, Murray said, after the Penobscot County District Attorney’s Office did not object to the change requested by the defendants.
If convicted, all six 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.
James Aucoin, an assistant district attorney for Penobscot County who handled Thursday’s arraignment, said prosecutors would not be seeking jail time. That means the defendants are not eligible for court-appointed attorneys.
At least three of the six protesters have been arrested before, according to information previously published by the Bangor Daily News.
Gilmartin was arrested in September 2008 at LURC’s office in Augusta. She 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 found videotaping and taking still photographs of the outside of Plum Creek’s office in Greenville. The charges were 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.