Garland lawmaker facing gun charges sent to psychiatric hospital

BDN staff and wire reports
Posted May 27, 2011, at 2:52 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A Maine lawmaker accused of pointing a loaded gun at a man outside a Dunkin’ Donuts in Waterville has been transferred to a psychiatric hospital.

Authorities say Rep. Frederick Ladd Wintle of Garland was examined at the jail Monday. Kennebec County Sheriff Randy Liberty says that as a result of the examination, Wintle was transferred to a psychiatric facility in southern Maine.

The mental health assessment had been initiated by law enforcement officials.

“This is another step in the process in evaluating the unusual events of May 21, 2011, and it is hoped that this process will shed some light on these unfortunate events,” Wintle’s attorney, Kenneth Fredette of Newport, said in a statement Friday evening. Fredette is also a Republican state lawmaker who knows Wintle personally.

“Many representatives, both Democrats and Republicans, have expressed their ongoing concerns for Representative Wintle, his family and Mr. Seamans,” Fredette wrote, referring to Michael Seamans, the innocent bystander at whom Wintle pointed the gun. “They remain in our thoughts and prayers.”

Wintle was arrested last weekend and charged with carrying a concealed weapon without a permit and with a felony charge of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon. His bail was set at $3,500. Bail conditions forbid him from returning to the State House without express permission from House Speaker Robert Nutting.

Wintle, a freshman Republican legislator elected last November, had been exhibiting what other lawmakers and State House staff described as increasingly bizarre and erratic behavior for a number of weeks before the gun incident in Waterville.

Other lawmakers on a legislative committee on which Wintle served said he would fixate — sometimes passionately — on issues not germane to the topic at hand and made strange comments. His unusual behavior became so alarming to committee members and staff that the Capitol Police periodically observed sessions when Wintle was present.

Wintle also apparently was barred by police from the office of the Legislature’s executive director after some tense exchanges with staff there. And days before he pointed the gun at a stranger in Waterville, Wintle was asked not to return to an Augusta hotel where he had been staying after getting into an altercation.

Legislative leaders were watching Wintle and had spoken to him several times in an attempt to discern if something was wrong. But before the Waterville incident, Wintle had not done anything illegal to compel them to take action against the lawmaker, who otherwise was described as a kind and religious man.

Lawmakers have been talking for some time about whether to beef up security in the State House, but Wintle’s arrest seems to have brought the issue more to the forefront.

There is now discussion of requiring everyone going into the State House to be screened for weapons beginning next January. Support also appears to be waning for a bill that would have allowed concealed weapons permit holders to carry guns into the State House.

BDN staff writer Kevin Miller and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/05/27/politics/maine-lawmaker-facing-gun-charges-sent-to-psychiatric-hospital/ printed on July 31, 2014