The Penobscot County treasurer and Bangor School Board member accused of taking over the social media account of a Bangor woman allegedly gained access to it by stealing her cell phone on May 5, according to the police affidavit.
John David Hiatt, 38, of Bangor allegedly posted messages on Facebook pretending to be her and sent to her account more than 100 personal messages after being warned at least twice by police not to contact her.
He also reported her EBT card stolen so she could not buy food using her Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, the affidavit said. Information about the card was stored on the stolen cell phone, according to police.
Hiatt allegedly messaged the woman’s daughter and said that the Department of Health and Human Services was “coming to take away her and her siblings.”
Hiatt is charged with one count each of aggravated invasion of computer privacy, a Class C crime; stalking, a Class D crime; theft by unauthorized taking, a Class E crime; and two counts of harassment, a Class D crime.
He was arrested Friday afternoon at his home and taken to the Penobscot County Jail. He posted $5,000 cash bail on Saturday, about 24 hours after his arrest.
Hiatt’s bail conditions include having no contact with the alleged victim and her children. He also is not to be at her home or on the short street where she lives.
He is scheduled to be arraigned July 14 at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor.
On Sunday, Hiatt issued a statement in which he vowed to fight the charges but did not specifically speak to the allegations on the advice of his lawyer. He also said that he would continue to serve as county treasurer and on the school committee and seek reelection next year to both offices.
Hiatt is the first elected official in Bangor to be charged with a crime since former City Councilor Richard Greene was arrested for forgery and shoplifting in 2008. Hiatt appears to be the first school board member arrested in the city.
The school department will launch its own investigation because Hiatt allegedly used a district-owned computer tablet to send some messages but steps are not currently being taken to remove him.
Bangor School Board Chairwoman Carin Sychterz said Monday that “Hiatt is innocent until proven guilty and until the investigation is complete there are no plans to either remove member Hiatt from the committee or even discuss it as an option.”
The only way Hiatt could be forcibly removed from the board is through a recall petition initiated by citizens and outlined in state law. Neither the city charter nor the rules the school board operates under allow for members to oust a fellow elected official, according to the city’s legal department.
Penobscot County officials have declined to comment on Hiatt’s arrest.
While state law allows the recall of municipal officials, there is no provision to recall people elected to county or state offices, according to the Maine Secretary of State’s office. A bill to allow for recall of all elected officials was introduced in 2009 but died in committee.
Hiatt has been open about his autism and the challenges he faces as an elected official because of it. In the statement issued Sunday, he said his autism played a role in his interactions with the woman.
The police investigation that led to the charges began on May 5, about 30 minutes after the cell phone was allegedly taken, when police responded to the alleged victim’s house for a report of disorderly conduct. She said that Haitt, who was parked in the driveway, had been pounding on the door.
Hiatt told officers that the woman had sent him a Facebook message saying she was going to kill him, the affidavit said.
She told officers that the message was sent after her phone was taken and she believed Hiatt had sent them to himself “to try and frame her.” The woman also told police that her daughter received a message from her mother’s Facebook account after the phone was taken from her kitchen table, according to the affidavit.
Hiatt claimed that the phone “technically” was his because he had paid for it and given it to the woman. He allegedly offered to return it in a message to the woman’s daughter but did not.
On May 6, police executed a search warrant for Hiatt’s home and car. The stolen phone was not recovered but officers did seize Hiatt’s phone and laptop computer. Hiatt invoked his right to counsel and refused to answer questions but was told not to be on the woman’s property and to stop harassing her and her children, the affidavit said.
That same day, Hiatt allegedly reported to police that the woman had previously sexually assaulted him. When detectives tried to follow up with him, Hiatt refused to speak with them, according to police.
Hiatt said Sunday that he was the victim, not the woman.
“Two weeks ago I suffered a sexual assault by a close female friend of mine,” he said. “I have filed a police report and look forward to a law enforcement agency looking at my allegations the same way they would when a woman makes the same allegations. This is a person who has hurt me in the past.”
On May 11, the Bangor police took over the woman’s Facebook account and a detective pretended to be the woman and responded when Hiatt messaged her. He continuously denied taking the woman’s phone but expressed concern that he could lose everything if charged with a crime. The same day, the detective told Hiatt to leave her alone.
Over the next two days, he allegedly sent 109 messages to the alleged victim and tried to call her four times, the affidavit said. They went unanswered. On Thursday, Hiatt was served at the Bangor police station with a notice not to continue the harassment.
Less than 20 minutes later, Hiatt allegedly began messaging the woman on Facebook. He also called her daughter, the affidavit said.
If convicted of the felony invasion of privacy law, Hiatt faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Class D crimes carry a maximum one-year term of incarceration and a fine of up to $2,000 and the maximum sentence and fine for a Class E crime are six months in jail and $1,000.