A Maine developer once dubbed “Donald Trump with a Maine accent” is among the more than 140 people who received last-minute pardons and clemency from the outgoing president.
The pardon for Michael A. Liberty, 60, from President Donald Trump was announced early Wednesday morning during the waning hours of his presidency. In issuing the full pardon, Trump noted that Liberty, a Gray native, is “the father of 7 children” and his involvement in “numerous philanthropic efforts.”
His pardon was supported by three Mainers including state Rep. Susan Austin, R-Gray, Cape Elizabeth Town Manager Matt Sturgis and Anthony Fratianne, a lawyer whose LinkedIn page says he works for the Liberty family. Fratianne also sits on the board of the Liberty Family Foundation, according to its website.
Sturgis, who used to serve on the Gray town council, said he had known Liberty for more than 30 years and wrote a letter in support of his clemency at the request of his family. Sturgis, who wrote about Liberty’s philanthropic work in Gray such as sponsoring a 5-kilometer run and summer meals for kids, said he was pleasantly surprised to learn he received the pardon.
“I think it’s a great second chance, and I’m sure he’ll make the best of it and maybe others will get to hopefully see the gift that he’s done for us in Gray,” Sturgis said.
The pardon for Liberty, now of Florida, centered on his conviction for violating federal campaign finance laws during the 2012 presidential election. Liberty pleaded guilty in 2016 to illegally contributing $22,500 to Republican Mitt Romney’s primary campaign in violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act.
Federal campaign finance laws limit individual contributions during the primary cycle to $2,500. But over a two-week period in May 2011, Liberty concealed the size of his contribution by splitting it into nine parts and making them in the names of employees, associates and family.
A federal judge in 2017 sentenced him to four months in prison, with a year of supervised release, and to pay a $100,000 fine. He was released from a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility in Florida in January 2018.
Liberty was an active donor to Trump’s re-election effort in 2020, giving more than $41,000 to groups including the Republican National Committee, Trump’s campaign and another committee backing Trump’s candidacy, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Liberty also has made campaign donations to Republicans including the late President George H.W. Bush, former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, the Republican National Committee, as well as Democrats including former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, former Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling and former Govs. John Baldacci and Joe Brennan.
In the 1990s, Yankee magazine dubbed the developer “Donald Trump with a Maine accent” for his ability to make millions on land deals. He was the developer behind the 91-unit Chandler’s Wharf condo and office towers at 100 Middle St. in Portland, and he was a former owner of the Oxford Plains Speedway.
His run-in with federal campaign finance officials isn’t the only legal trouble Liberty has faced in recent years. In 2019, a federal grand jury out of Portland indicted him and an associate, Paul Hess of Braintree, Massachusetts, for allegedly scamming investors out of $50 million to support lavish lifestyles. They have pleaded not guilty.
BDN writers Michael Shepherd and Jessica Piper contributed to this report.