BELFAST — Randall Hofland’s fate rests in the hands of the dozen Waldo County men and women who make up the jury, which began deliberations early Friday afternoon.
Friday morning marked the last day of the criminal trial of the 57-year-old Searsport man who has been accused of holding 11 children hostage at gunpoint on Oct. 31, 2008, at Stockton Springs Elementary School. He also is accused of having threatened a Searsport police officer at gunpoint eight days earlier during a routine traffic detail. No one was seriously injured in either incident.
Hofland has acted as his own defense attorney during the three-week-long trial, and Justice Jeffrey Hjelm ex-plained before dismissing the alternate jurors that their job might not yet be done. The defendant entered a plea of not guilty to all charges in January 2009, but he entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity also, the justice explained.
If the jury finds Hofland to be guilty of anything, immediately following that decision there will be another trial to determine whether he was insane at the time of the events.
Hofland and his attorney of counsel Jeffrey Toothaker of Ellsworth both made impassioned pleas to the jury during closing arguments on Friday, asking the men and women to make their determination based on the evidence and facts presented to them and not on emotions.
“This has not been a typical trial. In a criminal case, my client’s personality has nothing to do with the case,” Toothaker said. “You are on a little cloud up there by yourselves. Your job is to give a fair and impartial [decision].”
Hofland’s wide-ranging closing argument veered from defending himself against the charges to talking about fa-thers’ rights and the alleged conspiracy against him to quoting Jared Loughner, the man accused of shooting 20 peo-ple and killing six on Jan. 8 in Tucson.
“What is government if words have no meaning?” Hofland asked the jurors, using the question that Loughner is said to have posed to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. “What if a government ignores the truth?”
Hofland reiterated a previous point that he had made — that he had chosen to go to the school that day for a spe-cific reason.
“My family and everybody else’s family is very important to me,” he told the jury. “This is what that was all about. Not about terrorizing.”
But Waldo County District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau, in his closing arguments, told the jurors something differ-ent.
“Three weeks ago today, I told you that this case was about violence,” he said.
At one point, Rushlau displayed the 10 mm Glock handgun that Hofland had with him at the school that morning. He also replayed for the jury the recording of the 911 call that Hofland made the night of the seatbelt traffic detail when he went to his house and found police looking for him.
“They started a fight. They can have one now,” an angry Hofland snapped at the dispatcher over the phone. “They can either leave, or it will be war.”
Rushlau told the jurors that Hofland had chosen to bring his gun and about 70 rounds of ammunition with him as he went to the school that day, intending to “make a splash” while surrendering.
“As you heard in a recording, he’s ready for war,” Rushlau said. “When he is in the school, he looks desperate. He’s there with a gun, and he’s there for a purpose — to gather kids around him like a human shield.”