Judge, attorneys weigh next steps after state trooper accused of sex crime assaulted in courtroom

Posted April 13, 2012, at 11:37 a.m.
Gregory Vrooman
Gregory Vrooman
William Harrison
Lincoln County Sheriff's Office
William Harrison

WISCASSET, Maine — Attorneys and the judge involved in the sex-crime trial of Gregory Vrooman were scheduled to meet Friday to determine how to proceed in light of a courtroom assault on Vrooman on Thursday that brought the proceedings to a halt, according to Lincoln County Superior Court clerk.

Vrooman, 46, of Nobleboro, was assaulted by a spectator and hospitalized Thursday morning as the court was preparing to reconvene his trial following jury deliberations. Vrooman, a 24-year veteran of the Maine State Police, is on trial for numerous charges involving sexual abuse of a girl under the age of 14. The alleged assaults happened between December 2009 and November 2010.

Vrooman is on unpaid administrative leave from the Maine State Police.

The court clerk said that the jury had been in deliberations prior to the assault and was preparing to return to the courtroom. The jurors were not present for the altercation, in which William Harrison, 39, of Charlestown, Mass., allegedly attacked Vrooman from behind as he sat at the defense table. Police who were in the courtroom said that Harrison landed at least two punches, injuring Vrooman’s face.

Lincoln County District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau said the Harrison is a family member of the alleged victim in the case.

Harrison, who was quickly subdued by Lincoln County deputies and court officers, was charged with assault and taken to Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset. He was released on $5,000 bail later in the day, according to the jail’s administration.

Rushlau said Friday morning that court officers had been notified by the jury that a verdict had been reached, but that no one except for the jurors know what it is at this point.

“The next step is obviously to have the verdict delivered,” said Rushlau, who said he and others were meeting Friday to determine when that will happen. “This is completely unprecedented.”

Rushlau said it would be up to the court to decide whether the altercation could interrupt the legal process.

“That’s a decision for a trial judge,” he said. “If the verdict is guilty, it potentially gives the defendant another avenue for appeal, but I can’t personally see that that would be successful. [The assault] certainly did disrupt the ordinary course of a jury trial.”

Rushlau said that Vrooman has the right not to be present for the reading of the verdict, but said no decision on that front had been brought to his attention. Rushlau was unsure whether Vrooman remained hospitalized Friday morning.

Neither the jury nor the judge in the case, Justice Jeffrey Hjelm, were present during the assault.

Check bangordailynews.com for updates later today.

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