BELFAST, Maine — Guilty.
After spending four hours sequestered in a room at Waldo County Superior Court on Friday afternoon, the 12 men and women of the jury found accused elementary school hostage taker Randall Hofland guilty on almost all of the criminal charges he was facing.
Those 40 charges — one was dropped from the original 41 because it was “redundant,” a court official explained Friday — related to two incidents that happened in October 2008.
In the first charge, Hofland was accused of threatening former Searsport police Officer Jessica Danielson with a firearm during a routine traffic check.
The jury, which has listened to three weeks of witness testimony during the criminal trial for the 57-year-old Searsport man, found that he was not guilty of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon in that matter.
But they did find Hofland guilty of criminally threatening Danielson that night.
He was found guilty of 38 of the 39 counts of kidnapping, criminal restraint, burglary and criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon that were connected to taking a fifth-grade class hostage at Stockton Springs Elementary School on Oct. 31, 2008.
No one was seriously injured in either incident.
The jury found that Hofland was not guilty of criminally restraining one student with a dangerous weapon in the cafeteria that morning.
But he was convicted of criminally threatening school staff members Glen Larrabee, Daniel Campbell and Carolyn Russell with a dangerous weapon, his 10 mm Glock handgun.
He also was convicted of all charges of kidnapping and criminal restraint of the 10 girls and one boy who were in Russell’s fifth-grade classroom that day.
“It is what it is,” Hofland said as he was leaving the courthouse Friday evening in shackles. “We have a long ways to go yet.”
Hofland acted as his own defense attorney during the three-week-long trial, which did not end Friday night, despite the fact that the jury found him guilty of most charges.
Justice Jeffrey Hjelm explained Friday afternoon that while Hofland had entered a plea of not guilty to all charges in January 2009, he also later entered a second plea of not guilty by reason of insanity and abnormal state of mind.
Now that the jurors have found him guilty, there will be another trial to determine whether he was insane at the time of the events.
That trial will begin at 1 p.m. Monday, Hjelm advised the jurors and the parties.
Jeffrey Toothaker of Ellsworth, Hofland’s state-appointed attorney of counsel, said after the jurors were dismissed that the defendant has requested that 12 people be called to court to testify to his state of mind.
That list includes his ex-wife, an officer who arrested him, a man he had tried to hire once, his former jail transport officer and the Searsport police chief.
“The issue is to show he didn’t know right from wrong at the time he went into the school,” Toothaker said. “Or that he suffered from an abnormal condition of the mind that would preclude him from being convicted.”
If Hofland successfully convinces the jury that he was insane, he will be institutionalized by the state of Maine for as long as the state “deems appropriate,” the attorney said.
If he is not successful in his effort, he will be sentenced.
Toothaker had said earlier that Hofland could be sentenced to as much as 40 years for the crimes.
Hofland and Toothaker both made impassioned pleas to the jury during closing arguments 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 fathers’ rights, from the alleged conspiracy against him to quoting Jared Loughner, the man accused of shooting 20 people 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? … George Orwell’s nightmarish novel 1984 is very close to becoming [real].”
During his arguments, Hofland told the jury he had been incarcerated for 819 days “so as to get to this point.”
“The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is important to me,” he said to the jury. “I hope it’s important to you.”
Hofland reiterated a previous point that he had made — that he had chosen to go to the school that day for a “higher purpose,” and that he is not the kind of man who would ever hurt anyone.
“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 different.
“Three weeks ago today, I told you that this case was about violence,” he said.
At one point on Friday morning, 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 seat belt 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 Waldo County dispatcher over the phone. “They can either leave or it will be war.”
Rushlau told the jurors Friday that Hofland had chosen to bring his gun and about 70 rounds of ammunition with him as he went to the school that day, with the stated intent of making a “splash” while surrendering. Students and teachers testified that he told them he needed the children to be his “safety” or shield against the police, and in Hofland’s own hours-long testimony earlier this week, he largely agreed.
When Hofland — at that point a fugitive from justice who had been living in the woods for more than a week — went to the school, he frightened everyone, the district attorney said.
“These are children. He has a gun. He’s a stranger. He’s clearly desperate,” he said.
The district attorney also briefly touched upon Hofland’s lack of remorse.
“As you heard this defendant, you may have been struck by his singular focus, and his focus is himself,” Rushlau said. “Nothing about this causes you to doubt his intent. His objective was to enter the Stockton Springs Elementary School and take hostages. In a way, it was carrying out his war against whatever enemy he thought existed.”
Jury finds Hofland guilty on 38 counts
BELFAST, Maine — Guilty.
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