ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — A lawsuit brought against park rangers by a former local restaurant employee who claimed his rights were violated during a nighttime outing to Day Mountain two years ago has been settled, according to officials.
The park has agreed to pay $45,000 to Timothy Wild in exchange for him dropping his case against Acadia law enforcement officers.
Wild sued park rangers after suffering injuries to his face when he and 40 other people, most of whom were Jordan Pond House employees, were detained by park rangers at the summit of Day Mountain in the wee hours of Aug. 18, 2008. Wild claimed he had verbally objected to how rangers had treated another member of the group when he was handcuffed and then thrown face-first to the ground by a park ranger. The impact knocked Wild unconscious and gave him injuries to his face and shoulder.
Park rangers said Wild’s injuries occurred as they were trying to handcuff him. They said that Wild had been drinking and became verbally abusive to rangers before resisting arrest.
The reason Wild and others were detained at the top of the mountain was to determine whether anyone among the group had illegal drugs or was under age 21 and had consumed alcohol, according to park officials. The midnight gathering at the summit of Day Mountain was an annual but informal tradition organized by Jordan Pond House seasonal staff employees.
According to Wild’s attorney, Jon Holder of Bar Harbor, the money will cover Wild’s medical bills, and then some. Wild’s resulting medical bills from the Day Mountain incident totaled about $4,000, he said.
“[The $45,000 settlement] is not a lot, but he wasn’t greedy, my client,” Holder said. “[Park officials] were so obviously wrong. They could have paid his medical bills and apologized — end of case.”
Wild was unavailable Friday for comment on the settlement. Holder said his client is residing in Taipei, Taiwan, where he is teaching English as a second language.
Stuart West, chief ranger for Acadia National Park, said Friday that the reason for the settlement was to avoid any further expense from ongoing litigation and that it does not represent a finding of fault. He said that the National Park Service’s Office of Professional Responsibility investigated the incident and cleared the rangers of any wrongdoing.
“They determined the actions of the rangers were reasonable and that the use of force was appropriate, based on the circumstances and the actions of the suspects,” West said.
Wild, in his legal complaint against park rangers, claimed the rangers did not have grounds to detain him and his fellow employees at the top of the mountain, where possession of alcohol by people of legal drinking age is allowed. He argued that the manner in which he suffered his injuries was a violation of his constitutional rights and that the criminal charges he later faced — failure to obey a lawful order and disorderly conduct — were filed in retaliation to his public criticism of the rangers’ actions.
The charges against Wild and similar charges against Katherine Junkert, who worked with Wild and also was arrested during the Day Mountain incident, later were dropped by federal prosecutors.
The rangers who were first to detain the group at Day Mountain — Kevin Donnell, Louis Jahrling and James Lyon — also later were cleared by federal prosecutors of Wild’s claims that they used excessive force. Lyon specifically had been accused of causing Wild’s injuries.
Sheridan Steele, superintendent of Acadia, released a brief statement on the incident Friday through West, the park’s chief ranger.
“While it is unfortunate Mr. Wild was injured, it is clear to me that if everyone would have cooperated with rangers there would have been no injuries or arrests,” Steele indicated in the statement.