June 25, 2018
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Park service ordered to release reports in Acadia assault case

By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff

ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine —- The park has been ordered by a federal judge to release documents as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by a man who claimed he was assaulted by an Acadia park ranger during an Aug. 18, 2008, incident on Day Mountain.

The National Park Service also has agreed to pay Timothy Wild’s $24,000 legal bill for suing the park service over its refusal to release the documents.

Judge John Woodcock, presiding in U.S. District Court in Bangor, issued his order on Jan. 31, but sealed the case for 60 days, which is the time the U.S. Attorney’s Office had to decide whether it wanted to appeal Woodcock’s decision. According to Jon Holder, Wild’s attorney, the U.S. Attorney’s Office decided not to appeal, resulting in last week’s release of Woodcock’s order.

In the 41-page court order, Woodcock said the National Park Service could redact some information from its internal reports on the Day Mountain incident before it releases them. The NPS is allowed to redact from the reports such data as personal information, including addresses and phone numbers; the background, education and training of the rangers involved; and personal opinions about the character and professionalism of other individuals, according to the judge’s order.

Attempts Wednesday to get comment from park officials and representatives were unsuccessful.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Evan Roth, who represented the National Park Service in the FOIA case, declined to comment. A message left with Acadia Deputy Superintendent Len Bobinchock was not returned. Acadia Superintendent Sheridan Steele and Chief Ranger Stuart West were out of the office Wednesday and were unavailable for comment. Attempts to get comments from NPS officials in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., also were unsuccessful.

The $24,000 legal fee settlement is in addition to $45,000 that the park service agreed to pay Wild to settle a separate lawsuit. As part of the February 2010 settlement of that case, Wild agreed to drop his legal claims that park officials violated his rights during the Day Mountain incident.

Wild sued park rangers after suffering injuries to his face when he and 40 other people, most of whom were Jordan Pond House employees, were detained by park rangers at the summit of Day Mountain in the wee hours of Aug. 18, 2008. Wild, who worked as a waiter at the seasonal restaurant, claimed he had verbally objected to how rangers had treated another member of the group when he was handcuffed and then thrown face-first to the ground by a park ranger. The impact knocked Wild unconscious and gave him injuries to his face and shoulder.

Park rangers said Wild’s injuries occurred as they were trying to handcuff him. They said that Wild had been drinking and became verbally abusive to rangers before resisting arrest.

Wild separately filed a FOIA lawsuit in February 2010 against the park after he requested copies of the ranger reports about the Day Mountain confrontation and the park declined to release the reports.

Holder said Wednesday that the park’s reluctance to release the documents suggests that its employees were at fault in the incident, which his daughter witnessed. He said the park’s initial draft report on the incident indicated that the ranger who arrested Wild, James Lyon, was at fault for Wild’s injuries but that its final report exonerated the former Acadia ranger.

“It smelled from the beginning,” Holder said of the park’s refusal to release the documents. “That’s just absolute hypocrisy.”

Wild had been charged by rangers with disorderly conduct and interfering with agency functions, but the U.S. Attorney’s Office later dropped those charges. Federal prosecutors also declined to bring charges against rangers involved in the Day Mountain incident.

According to Holder, Wild is overseas teaching English as a second language in Vietnam. He said he has been in contact with his client about the latest development in his case.

“He is excited,” Holder said. “He was wronged.”

Holder said he has yet to receive the documents that Woodcock ordered the park to release. He said the U.S. Attorney’s Office has the documents and is redacting the information the judge said it could withhold. Holder said he expects to receive the documents next week and plans to release them publicly when he gets them.

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