Searsport man suing town for $250,000 after police allegedly seize belongings, don’t return them

Posted Nov. 12, 2013, at 4:23 p.m.

SEARSPORT, Maine — A resident is suing the town of Searsport for $250,000 after alleging his home was searched and some of his belongings seized in 2008 when police were investigating a different man who was later convicted of taking a fifth grade classroom hostage at gunpoint.

Carlton Wiggin filed a civil complaint in Waldo County Superior Court in September. He said in the lawsuit that Searsport police officers have not yet returned his property, which was not specified in the suit, and caused damage to it by detaining it “for an unreasonable period of time.” Wiggin claims he has been harmed by the alienation from his property, including loss of value, loss of enjoyment and replacement costs. He also said that he has suffered “emotional and non-physical harms, including loss of reputation, distress and physical complications.”

In addition to the $250,000 in damages, he also is seeking attorney’s fees from the town.

Searsport’s lawyer responded last week to the complaint by asking that the court dismiss Wiggin’s lawsuit. Although lawyer Edward R. Benjamin Jr. of Portland admitted that Wiggin’s first point was correct — that the town of Searsport is a municipality located within Waldo County — he denied most other allegations in the lawsuit.

“If any of Defendant’s acts are found to have been illegal and/or unconstitutional, [the town of Searsport] had no knowledge of such illegality or unconstitutionality at the time of the alleged conduct and at all times was acting in good faith,” Benjamin wrote in the Nov. 5 response.

At the time that police allegedly seized Wiggin’s property, they were investigating Randall Hofland, according to the lawsuit. The suit does not make clear what Hofland’s connection to Wiggin was.

Hofland, now 60, is serving consecutive 30-year and 5-year sentences after being convicted of multiple charges associated with the Halloween 2008 hostage-taking at Stockton Springs Elementary School. A Waldo County jury in 2011 convicted Hofland of 39 criminal counts of kidnapping, criminal threatening, criminal restraint and burglary related to the school incident, in which no one was harmed.

The school episode was triggered by an incident that had happened the week before, when Hofland was involved in a police roadblock during which he pulled a gun before speeding off, according to police and court documents. He spent eight days hiding in the woods and avoiding a police manhunt, and then emerged at the elementary school’s gymnasium. There, he used a loaded handgun to try and gather children and bring them into a school bathroom. He was thwarted by school officials. Instead, he forced his way into the fifth-grade classroom.

Wiggin claims that at various times in 2008 and at certain times thereafter, agents of the Searsport Police Department entered his property in order to execute a search warrant issued in connection with Hofland and Hofland’s property. But police “knowingly and intentionally” detained and searched Wiggin’s property, according to the lawsuit.

Wiggin’s attorney, Aaron Blaschke Rowden of Fairfield, declined Tuesday to comment on the pending case.

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