A former Newport lawyer who skipped his first court date appeared Friday at the Penobscot Judicial Center and pleaded not guilty to stealing $260,000 from a client’s estate, according to his attorney.
An arrest warrant was issued Nov. 7 for Dale Thistle, 72, of Quebec City, Quebec. District Court Judge Bruce Jordan set bail at $50,000 cash at the time but said it could be reviewed if and when Thistle appeared.
Bail was reduced Friday to $1,000 cash, and Thistle entered into a contract with Maine Pretrial Services that requires that he appear in court when ordered.
Thistle’s attorney, William Ashe of Ellsworth, said after his client’s arraignment Friday that Thistle had received the summons to appear in court but the section where the time and date should have been filled in was blank.
He is next due in court Feb. 10, but the case is not expected to be resolved for many months, Ashe said.
Thistle has not practiced law in Maine since June 2014, when he was suspended by the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar due to a disability. He suffered a traumatic brain injury in a Nov. 17, 2011, car crash, but it was not diagnosed immediately, the Waterville Morning Sentinel reported in 2014. His symptoms worsened over time until he was unable to practice, Thistle told the paper.
The alleged theft happened in mid-2012, according to Ashe. The attorney said that he believed Thistle’s brain injury impaired his judgement.
The $260,000 was a wrongful death settlement meant for the estate of Gilman Friend, who died in December 2010 at the age of 82 as the result of a fall at his Newport home, his son, Dana Friend, 62, of Carrabassett Valley said Nov. 7.
The widow, Donna Friend, hired Thistle to sue Sebasticook Valley Hospital’s ambulance service for wrongful death, and Thistle negotiated the settlement.
It turned out, however, that Donna Friend was not entitled to the money because she and Gilman Friend had divorced before his death but continued living together, Dana Friend said.
If convicted of theft, the same charge to which Dunton pleaded guilty, Thistle faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. He also could be ordered to pay restitution to Gilman Friend’s heirs.