AUGUSTA, Maine — An attorney representing a state lawmaker accused of threatening a stranger with a loaded handgun in May said Tuesday he hopes to resolve his client’s case before a grand jury can hand up an indictment next month.
Leonard Sharon, attorney for Rep. Frederick L. Wintle, R-Garland, said he believes the matter can be settled soon, possibly paving the way for Wintle’s return to the Legislature.
Wintle appeared Tuesday in Kennebec County Superior Court for a status conference on felony charges of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and carrying a concealed weapon. Those charges stem from a May 21 incident in the parking lot of a Dunkin’ Donuts in Waterville.
Wintle reportedly pointed a .22 caliber handgun at Sidney resident Michael Seamans, a photographer for the Morning Sentinel who had stopped for coffee.
After Tuesday’s hearing, Sharon indicated he plans to meet with Kennebec County District Attorney Evert Fowle on a plea agreement that would address the gravity of the charges without adversely punishing his client.
Since Wintle has expressed a desire to return to his legislative seat, Sharon said he hopes any legal resolution would allow that to happen.
“Whether he feels healthy enough to do that remains to be seen,” the attorney said.
Currently, Wintle is barred from entering the State House without written permission from House Speaker Robert Nutting of Oakland.
Sharon said the May 21 altercation involving Wintle was an isolated incident brought on by psychological illness. Wintle, 58, has been undergoing treatment since his arrest and is living at his home in Garland.
In the past , Nutting has said he would wait for resolution before making a firm decision on Wintle’s future as a lawmaker. The House speaker could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
No formal process for removing Wintle from the Legislature has begun. The Maine Constitution allows each house of the Legislature to expel one of its own members with a two-thirds vote.
Legislative colleagues, including Rep. Kerri Prescott, R-Topsham, House chairwoman of the Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee on which Wintle served, had expressed concerns over Wintle’s behavior before the May 21 incident.
In May, Capitol Police barred him from being in the office of the executive director of the Legislature.
Wintle was born in Dexter and spent 20 years in the U.S. Air Force. This is his first term in the Maine Legislature.