BELFAST, Maine — A man accused of pulling a gun on a police officer during a routine traffic stop in 2008 implied in court Monday that he was holding a small, black digital music player that could have been mistaken for a gun and that the officer may have falsified her report.
Monday marked the second, albeit abridged, day of the trial against Randall Hofland, 57, of Searsport, who faces 41 criminal charges related to that incident and to another eight days later when he allegedly held a classroom of fifth graders at Stockton Springs Elementary School hostage at gunpoint. No one was injured in either incident.
Testimony in Waldo County Superior Court Monday focused solely on the Oct. 23, 2008, incident when police say Hofland pulled a gun during a traffic stop before speeding off down a driveway and then bolting into the woods on foot.
Steven Saucier, who was a sergeant with the Searsport Police Department at the time, testified Monday that police cars sat on both sides of Route 1 in Searsport that night as officers stopped vehicles and checked occupants to make sure all were wearing seat belts.
Saucier, who now works for the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office, said that late that night, he turned toward fellow officer Jessica Danielson when he heard her raise her voice at a driver. Then he heard her yell, “Gun.” Saucier testified that he walked quickly toward Danielson, but at some point jumped into his police cruiser to chase the car, which drove off and turned into a dirt driveway.
Saucier said he did not see Hofland jump out of the car that stopped in the driveway, but by the time the sergeant reached the vehicle, all he found was a dog in the passenger seat.
Video clips from Saucier’s police cruiser dashboard camera played in court Monday showed headlights illuminating an overgrown dirt road, as people in the background can be heard screaming.
“You need to come out with your hands up, no one is here to harm you,” one man yells.
“Randall, this is the police,” another yells into the dark woods. “We’re not going to go away.”
When Waldo County District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau finished with the witness, Hofland, who is representing himself, began his cross-examination of Saucier by asking whether the officer had seen Hofland holding a gun that night. Saucier testified he had not.
Then for 15 minutes, Hofland asked Saucier about small, black guns and entered his own MP3 player into evidence. At one point, Hofland held the digital music player so that it jutted out of his hand like the slide of a handgun and asked Saucier how the length of the MP3 compared to a small handgun.
Saucier responded that a small gun would be at least an inch longer than the music player.
Then, as questioning wrapped up near 4 p.m., Hofland asked Saucier what he called a “pointed question”: Had he ever caught Officer Danielson falsifying reports?
The line of questioning was immediately halted by an objection from Rushlau that was sustained by Justice Jeffrey Hjelm.
Saucier was the single witness called Monday afternoon in the trial, which was delayed from its 9 a.m. scheduled start while court officials tracked down documents Hofland said he needed to defend himself.
Hofland told the judge in the morning that his legal documents were being kept from him at the Somerset County Jail in Madison, where the accused has been incarcerated when not in court.
Hjelm ordered that the documents be fetched and delivered to the Belfast courtroom immediately.
“We’ve lost an entire half day of trial time, which is not a small amount of time,” Hjelm said. “We have not used time well today.”
To prevent further delays, Hjelm ordered that all of Hofland’s legal documents be kept in Belfast and that Hofland also be held in Belfast’s 72-hour holding facility for as much of the trial as possible.
The judge acknowledged that the arrangement might require the defendant be returned to the Madison jail for a day or so in between each three-day stint at the holding facility in Belfast.
The trial was delayed until 1:30 p.m. to give officials time to retrieve Hofland’s documents from Madison.
Hofland is representing himself, but Ellsworth attorney Jeffrey Toothaker has been appointed by the court to give the defendant advice when he asks for it. Toothaker expects the trial, which was to resume at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday, to last more than two weeks.