BELFAST, Maine — A doctor testified Monday that Randall Hofland was delusional when he took a Stockton Springs Elementary School classroom hostage at gunpoint in October 2008.
The 57-year-old Searsport man was convicted Friday of 38 criminal counts of kidnapping, criminal threatening and burglary by the same jury now tasked with figuring out his state of mind at the time of the crimes.
He was found not guilty of two counts associated with the school incident and with another event during a routine traffic detail in Searsport when he was accused of threatening a police officer with a 10 mm Glock handgun. It is the fourth week of his trials.
Dr. Ann LeBlanc, the director of the State Forensic Service, testified Monday afternoon at Waldo County Superior Court on the first day of the trial to determine Hofland’s sanity.
LeBlanc said she had met with Hofland several times about a year ago during his two-month stay at the state-run Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta when he was being evaluated to determine whether he could act as his own attorney.
He was competent, she found, and Hofland defended himself through the long criminal trial.
Additionally, LeBlanc determined that because of Hofland’s strong conviction that he is the victim of a large, governmental conspiracy, he suffers from a mental condition called delusional disorder.
“It was my observation that his thinking about this conspiracy was actually consistent with a delusion,” LeBlanc testified, explaining that delusions are fixed ideas that are inconsistent with reality. “I would say that Mr. Hofland certainly believes that such a conspiracy really exists.”
She described Hofland’s fixed idea of the vast governmental conspiracy as being akin to a round hole into which he pounded all of his life experience — even if that experience was “square or triangular” and didn’t really fit. All those experiences essentially became evidence for Hofland that his conspiracy beliefs were real.
LeBlanc said that although it was likely Hofland had long had some sort of personality disorder — he shows traits of both narcissistic personality disorder and paranoia, she said — the delusion apparently took a firmer hold on his brain 10 years ago at the time of his divorce.
Because Hofland’s delusions are characterized as “non-bizarre” in nature, and since he does not suffer from hallucinations, she rejected a diagnosis of schizophrenia.
“The delusion has a life of its own,” LeBlanc testified in response to a question from Waldo County District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau during his cross-examination.
Rushlau had told the jury in his opening statement that even though Hofland has been diagnosed with a mental disorder, it’s “not the end of the discussion.”
In order to be deemed not criminally responsible for an act by reason of insanity in Maine, a defendant must prove that he or she was psychotic at the time of the crime and unable to determine the difference between right and wrong.
“The defendant was clearly aware that what he was doing was wrong,” Rushlau told the jury. “Everything he did was with the intent to make a splash. Although he may have a very peculiar way of looking at the world, he was not, and is not, insane.”
Hofland also made an opening statement to the jury, one which sounded very similar to the long testimony he gave during his criminal trial.
“All that the police did put me over the edge, with all the years of abuses,” he said. “What happened to me was the result of being abused.”
During the trial, Hofland had said that police, judges and others have targeted him since his divorce and placed him on some type of federal watch list. He said he is constantly under police surveillance and that Searsport police intentionally targeted him when they set up the Oct. 23, 2008, traffic detail.
“I believe I was threatened by police. I believe I was set up,” he said. “Was I the victim of a conspiracy? I believe so. The state wants you to believe I was an evil person. But am I?”
Hofland reminded the jury of how he had lost his three sons and “every home he had” after the divorce and told them that every person who knows him would attest to how great he is.
“I really got screwed over by the system, folks,” he said. “How can anybody remain sane while under assault by such a corrupt system?”
LeBlanc told the jury that Hofland did not want to pursue the insanity plea, but only did so at the request of his attorney of counsel, Jeffrey Toothaker of Ellsworth. That helped convince her that he wasn’t malingering, or faking mental illness.
Hofland did talk to her about the eight days he was a fugitive. He hid in the woods from police searchers, subsisting on what he could scavenge and sleeping rough.
“He talked about deciding to go to the school to shine a light on the conspiracy,” LeBlanc testified.
Hofland took the stand to testify in his own trial. He was questioned by Toothaker, who appeared to have run out of patience for the roundabout way his client gives answers.
“You need to focus your answer on my question,” Toothaker said at one point.
“Well, I’m heading in that direction,” Hofland responded.
He talked about graduate school, his ex-wife and the roots of his mistrust of government. He testified about his beliefs that his phones were tapped and his Internet service was under surveillance.
“I think the government always watches us,” he said.
The trial will continue at 9 a.m. Tuesday with Hofland still on the witness stand. On Friday, Justice Jeffrey Hjelm had estimated that the insanity trial would last several days.