Rockland man withdraws guilty plea after father makes impassioned speech

Posted July 23, 2013, at 12:32 p.m.
Last modified July 23, 2013, at 2:06 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — A 21-year-old Rockland man who is accused of assaulting his father with a hammer last month withdrew his guilty plea Tuesday after his dad told the judge that he did not want his son to go to prison.

Gabriel P. Grover had agreed Monday in Knox County Superior Court to plead guilty to aggravated assault, and criminal mischief for the June 23 incident that occurred in Warren.

Justice Jeffrey Hjelm, however, postponed sentencing Monday when he was informed by the district attorney’s office that the father wanted to speak before the court. The hearing was continued until Tuesday.

Grover is charged with striking his father in the head with a hammer following a verbal argument, according to an affidavit filed in court by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. Grover also allegedly took a large rock and threw it through the windshield of a motor vehicle, according to the police affidavit.

At the Tuesday hearing, John Grover said his hope was that his son would get help, not a prison term. He said he would not have called police if he had known this would be the outcome.

The elder Grover said the dispute was simply because he was an alpha male who was not ready to give up that status and his son wanted to become the alpha male in the household.

“I love him. I forgive him,” the father said.

He said his son has had emotional problems since he was 2 years old and that a prison term would only make things worse.

The father said he served his country in the military to protect the rights of others, including the judge, and that he felt as if his rights were not be protected with the handling of his son’s case.

After the elder Grover spoke, Justice Hjelm asked Gabriel Grover if he still wanted to plead guilty. Grover said he wanted more time to think about it and the hearing was recessed. A continuation of the hearing was not scheduled.

The plea agreement that had been reached Monday between the defense and district attorney’s office called for the younger Grover to spend 12 months in prison. Assistant District Attorney Jeff Baroody said the defendant was on probation for a 2011 eluding a police officer conviction and had violated probation twice during 2012. Grover also had convictions in 2011 for burglary and possession of dangerous knives.

Defense attorney William Pagnano said that the agreement with the prosecution was in the best interest of his client.

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