Garland lawmaker steps down in wake of gun incident

Posted Sept. 13, 2011, at 11:19 a.m.
Last modified Sept. 13, 2011, at 5:21 p.m.
Rep. Fred Wintle, R-Garland (right) is escorted back to Kennebec County jail in May, 2011, by House Republicans Chief of Staff Earl Bierman (left), following Wintle's Harnish hearing at Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta. Wintle has resigned from his House seat less than four months after he was arrested for allegedly pointing a loaded handgun at a man in Waterville.
Andy Molloy, Kennebec Journal | AP
Rep. Fred Wintle, R-Garland (right) is escorted back to Kennebec County jail in May, 2011, by House Republicans Chief of Staff Earl Bierman (left), following Wintle's Harnish hearing at Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta. Wintle has resigned from his House seat less than four months after he was arrested for allegedly pointing a loaded handgun at a man in Waterville.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A Maine lawmaker arrested in May after allegedly pointing a loaded handgun at a man in Waterville resigned his House seat on Tuesday.

Rep. Frederick Wintle, R-Garland, sent a brief letter of resignation to House Speaker Robert Nutting indicating his intent. Wintle said it was an honor to serve his constituents in House District 24, which includes towns in Piscataquis and Somerset counties.

Nutting praised Wintle for putting his district ahead of his own interests.

“I am pleased that he made this decision that will allow him to concentrate on his health and his family, and at the same time will allow people who live in Garland, Athens, Charleston, Dexter, Harmony and Ripley to have representation in Augusta,” the speaker said in a statement. “I accept his resignation and wish him and his family the best in the future. Details of a special election for District 24 will be announced in the near future.”

Wintle’s attorney Leonard Sharon revealed his client’s resignation at a hearing Tuesday in Kennebec County Superior Court.

Wintle faces felony charges related to a bizarre May 21 incident outside a Dunkin’ Donuts during which he reportedly pointed a .22-caliber handgun at Michael Seamans, a photographer for a local newspaper.

Many who know Wintle have said since that his behavior that day was completely out of character, although others expressed concern about Wintle’s conduct before the incident. 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 about Wintle’s behavior before May 21.

Sharon, however, said his client’s conduct that day was an isolated incident brought on by psychological illness. Wintle, 58, has been undergoing treatment since his arrest and has been living at his home in Garland.

Rep. Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, who like Wintle was elected to his first term in 2010, said he talked with his freshman colleague for many weeks about his options.

Fredette said Wintle at times expressed an interest in staying in the Legislature and at other times talked about resigning.

Ultimately, Fredette said, Wintle realized that his effectiveness as a lawmaker had been diminished and the people of his district deserved more.

Just last month, Sharon said Wintle hoped to return to the Legislature once his legal matters were settled.

Tuesday’s hearing focused on a deal under which Wintle would plead guilty to a felony, with the charge later being reduced to a misdemeanor if he meets certain conditions. There was no resolution of that deferral process because objections were raised by District Attorney Evert Fowle, who suggested that Wintle return to jail for an additional 45 days.

Sharon said he could not agree to that deal. That means Wintle likely will be indicted by a grand jury perhaps as early as next month.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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