Jury: Hofland wasn’t criminally insane during hostage-taking at school

Randall Hofland of Searsport briefly talked with the media after opening arguments in his trial at Waldo County Superior Court on Jan. 7, 2011.
John Clarke Russ | BDN
Randall Hofland of Searsport briefly talked with the media after opening arguments in his trial at Waldo County Superior Court on Jan. 7, 2011.
By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff
Posted Feb. 01, 2011, at 3:06 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — It took the jury only 35 minutes Tuesday afternoon to determine that Randall Hofland was not criminally insane when he took a classroom full of elementary school students hostage at gunpoint in 2008.

The same jury convicted the 57-year-old Searsport man Friday in Waldo County Superior Court of 39 criminal counts of kidnapping, criminal threatening, criminal restraint and burglary associated with that incident. He will be sentenced in two or three months, according to his attorney of counsel, Jeffrey Toothaker of Ellsworth. Toothaker said Hofland could face as many as 40 years behind bars. Until his sentencing, he will be held without bail.

“Now that it’s over, it’s very satisfying,” Waldo County District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau said Tuesday afternoon after the trial. “I’m glad the result was what it was. It was a very long process.”

Hofland’s two-part trial was stretched out over a month. During the first part, the jurors heard three weeks of witness testimony before making their decision about his guilt. They then learned that Hofland had entered a second plea after his initial plea of not guilty — not guilty by reason of insanity and abnormal state of mind — and that they would need to decide if he met the state’s criteria for criminal insanity.

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.

Hofland, who left the courthouse in shackles to head back to Somerset County Jail, said that he will appeal.

“I totally disagree with many of the verdicts,” he said Tuesday on the courthouse steps.

Hofland said after the trial that he never had wanted to have any of the children suffer and that he was sorry for that, although he also said that the children suffering post-traumatic stress disorder after the school incident are doing so because of the lies that other adults have told them about their experiences that day.

Hofland also referred to the Oct. 23, 2008, traffic stop that marked the beginning of his criminal difficulties. During that traffic stop, Hofland was accused of using a 10 mm Glock handgun to threaten former Searsport police Officer Jessica Danielson before fleeing from police into the woods near his Route 1 box trailer. He then lived in the woods as a fugitive for about a week before emerging on Oct. 31 at the Stockton Springs Elementary School, where he testified he wanted to make a “splash” while surrendering to officials.

The jury decided Friday that he was not guilty of threatening Danielson.

“We can all thank Jessica Danielson for this,” Hofland said Tuesday after court was over.

Hofland had primarily defended himself during the first part of the trial and then Toothaker seemed to take the lead during the insanity part.

Toothaker tried to convince the jury that his client, who had been diagnosed with delusional disorder by Dr. Ann LeBlanc, director of the State Forensic Service, had been criminally insane when he entered the school.

LeBlanc testified on Monday, the first day of the second part of Hofland’s trial.

“It should have been pretty obvious that what was going through his mind was not normal thinking,” Toothaker told the jury during closing arguments Tuesday. “The evidence truly shows a man who is disturbed beyond all recognition of reality.”

Hofland testified at length during both parts of the trial about his firm belief that he is the target of a government conspiracy .

“It is his obsession that there is a conspiracy against him that should lead you to believe he is suffering a major mental illness,” Toothaker said. “He is obsessed with things that wouldn’t concern anybody in the course of a normal day. He can’t help himself. Truly.”

Hofland also gave a closing argument Tuesday, during which he told the jury that he disagrees with his diagnosis.

“I’ve lived my life based on fact, not based on delusions,” he said, adding that the conspiracy is real.

But Hofland did say that the events of October 2008 were very unusual for him and had been provoked by his conviction that the police had tried to entrap him at that traffic detail. That caused him to “completely lose” direction in his life, he said.

“All I know is that I would not have done something like that under normal circumstances,” he said. “If my actions are not the acts of a temporarily insane person, then we are in real trouble.”

He also told the jury that they had wrongly convicted him of many things.

“People have lied about what I did,” he said. “Those children have heard those lies over and over and over again. … I hope that someday all those people will both admit the truth and undo some of the harm they’ve done to the children.”

Rushlau’s closing arguments focused on the state’s definition of criminal insanity. He said that he wasn’t disputing Hofland’s diagnosis of “persecutory-type” delusional disorder, but added that he nonetheless knew what he was doing when he went into the school. But if, for example, Hofland had believed that he was a World War II soldier, and that the school was full of Nazis, that would be a different matter, he said.

“Then you would very likely say that that was insane,” Rushlau said.

Hofland used logic and strategy that day at the school, the prosecutor argued.

“He was, and is, an arrogant man, convinced that he is right in all his conflicts with others. His family, the government, anyone,” Rushlau said. “It causes him to do what he did. But he knew it was wrong while he was doing it. … As our law defines insanity, he was not insane that day.”

After the jury gave the verdict, Justice Jeffrey Hjelm thanked them and the three alternates for their weeks of service.

“I can’t thank you deeply enough for the services you have provided to this community,” he said, adding that they were in the fifth calendar week of the trial. “That’s a very long period of time. … Jurors give life to the constitutional right that we all have to a trial by jury. It’s a real sacrifice. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a privilege to work with people like you.”

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/02/01/news/jury-hofland-wasnt-criminally-insane-during-hostage-taking-at-school/ printed on September 16, 2014