AUBURN, Maine — A former Bates College student was sent to jail and, along with three others, ordered to perform community service for his role in a May 2010 melee at the Lewiston campus involving hundreds of students.
Eleven students were arrested and charged in the late-night gathering that blocked the pathway of an ambulance responding to a call to treat a student ill with alcohol poisoning. The cases of the other seven ended in pleas.
An Androscoggin County Superior Court judge accepted the pleas of the four defendants in court Tuesday to begin their trials. The four had waived their rights to jury trials.
After hours of negotiations, the four students entered their pleas.
Samuel Willard Guilford, 24, of Surry and Portland pleaded guilty to charges of refusing to submit to arrest and failure to disperse, both misdemeanors. Guilford agreed to a sentence of 14 days in jail on each charge, to be served at the same time. He was ordered to report to Androscoggin County Jail at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Guilford also pleaded guilty to a charge of assault on an officer, a Class C felony. That plea will be shelved for two years during which Guilford must not violate any of the conditions of his agreement and not engage in any new criminal activity.
If after two years he has met the terms of the agreement, he will be allowed to withdraw his felony plea and instead plead no contest to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct. The Lewiston police officer he is accused of assaulting, Robert Ulrich, is expected to sue Guilford for damages stemming from the altercation. Ulrich suffered a broken leg while seeking to detain Guilford, who has not admitted guilt that might be used against him in a civil suit.
Ulrich, who was in court Tuesday, said he was satisfied with the plea and that Guilford had accepted responsibility.
“In my 15 years of experience, I’ve never seen that type of a crowd,” Ulrich said. “It was, to be very honest, quite a shock. I think alcohol truly affected the judgment of some of these young men.”
He said his broken leg has been a hardship for him and his family. He has one more surgery to remove a metal plate in his leg, he said.
“I find your remarks incredibly gracious and understanding under the circumstances,” Justice MaryGay Kennedy told Ulrich. “I’m sorry you were harmed.”
Kush Mahan, 23, of Kalamazoo, Mich., pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and Mark Stehlik, 23, of Marlborough, N.H., pleaded guilty to failure to disperse.
Francis Suozzo, 23, of Golden Bridge, N.Y., pleaded guilty to a charge of failure to disperse that, as with the other defendants’ charges, would be a deferred disposition and would be dismissed in two years. He, like Mahan and Stehlik, agreed not to use or possess alcohol for the next two years and to stay away from bars and other businesses that primarily serve alcohol. They also will be subject to random searches without cause to check for violations.
Each of the four men was ordered to perform 200 hours of community service over the next two years. If, after the next two years, they have complied with the terms of their agreements, they will be allowed to withdraw their pleas and the misdemeanor charges will be dismissed.
All four must check in with the court every six months to report on their progress.
The charge against Mahan, a Kenyan national, was changed so that he shouldn’t be deported as a result of his plea.
Kennedy said she would grant no continuances from the court date of Nov. 6, 2013.
If any of the defendants were to violate the terms of their respective deferred dispositions, their pleas would be subject to open sentencing, meaning a judge could impose any sentence, according to statutory guidelines.
Assistant District Attorney Andrew Matulis said, had he gone to trial, he would have presented a case against the four men that would have started with the head of security at Bates College saying that about 11:30 p.m. May 25, 2010, seniors were returning to their freshman dorms. There had been a lot of drinking that night.
An ambulance had been called to treat a student for alcohol poisoning. Campus security failed to disperse the crowd that had blocked a road on campus. The noise of the crowd made it difficult to hear radio transmissions, Matulis said. When the ambulance turned on its siren, the crowd cheered.
Lewiston police were called to assist campus security. Officers tried to disperse the crowd over speakers on their cruisers. Then they entered the crowd to disperse the students that way.
“The officers were very concerned for their safety at that point,” Matulis said.
When a student was arrested, Stehlik and Guilford protested and followed her, refusing orders to disperse. Stehlik was arrested, handcuffed and put against a cruiser.
Ulrich told Guilford he was under arrest. Ulrich had run out of handcuffs and had Guilford’s hands behind his back. When Ulrich called to another officer for a set of handcuffs, Guilford broke loose, freeing one arm and turning. Fearing he was about to be assaulted, Ulrich attempted a takedown, but Guilford pushed off the cruiser and his weight threw Ulrich off balance, resulting in a broken leg. He needed surgery and a plate to repair the damage. He couldn’t walk properly for a month and a half, Matulis said.
Attorneys for the defendants said their clients’ version of events that night differed from the prosecutor’s account. They said the four men hadn’t gotten involved until after the ambulance had left.
Roland Adams, a spokesman for Bates, declined to comment on the legal outcome Tuesday, but said the 5-year-old tradition of “throwback” night was preserved by students working with administrators to ensure a repeat of 2010 didn’t happen this past May. Controls were put in place that prevented the possibility of another melee and “produced no undesirable outcomes.”