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Criminal Mischief (02/05/2020)

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Sheriff helps save men in ATV incident

WARREN (AP) — Two Warren men remain were hospitalized after their ATV fell through the ice.

Craig Dennison, 38, was driving the ATV with Donald Holbrook, 28, as a passenger Saturday night when they hit open water about 100 yards from shore on Crawford Pond, authorities said Sunday.

Dennison was able to get himself out of the water, but Holbrook had to be rescued by Knox County Sheriff Sgt. Arthur Smith, who secured himself to shore with a rope, jumped in the water and held Holbrook upright until they could be pulled out.

Dennison was in stable condition Saturday night. Holbrook was transferred to Maine Medical Center in stable but serious condition.

Authorities said the incident is a warning that ice conditions along the coast can be hazardous.

Blood test law ruled unconstitutional

PORTLAND (AP) — A state law requiring a blood test in all fatal crashes regardless of probable cause is unconstitutional, Maine’s highest court ruled Tuesday in the case of a trucker fighting a manslaughter conviction.

The Supreme Judicial Court issued the ruling even as it upheld the conviction of the Tennessee trucker for two counts of manslaughter, citing a good faith exception because the police officer applied the law as it was then known.

The trucker, Randall Weddle, argued in his appeal that the state law was unconstitutional.

Tuesday’s ruling was a reversal for the state’s supreme court, which previously upheld the constitutionality of the law in 2007. The U.S. Supreme Court has issued further guidance on warrantless searches since then, Justice Joseph Jabar wrote in the ruling.

“Weddle’s blood was taken without a warrant, without his consent and without probable cause to believe that he was impaired by alcohol at the time his blood was drawn. No exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement applies,” he wrote.

The ruling means that, going forward, law enforcement officers will either have to establish probable case of impairment or obtain consent before drawing blood for evidence after a crash that either caused, or likely caused, a fatality, said Donald Macomber, assistant attorney general.

Weddle, of Greeneville, Tennessee, is serving a 25-year sentence for manslaughter and aggravated driving under the influence in the 2016 crash, in which his tractor-trailer loaded with lumber crashed into oncoming traffic in Washington, Maine. Christina Torres-York, 45, of Warren, and Paul Fowles, 74, of Owls Head, were killed.

A sergeant from the Knox County Sheriff’s Department thought Weddle might be responsible and asked a paramedic to draw blood to preserve evidence.

The officer didn’t obtain consent for the test, nor did he assess Weddle’s sobriety, the court said. Investigators later found a partially consumed bottle of whiskey in the cab of Weddle’s truck, but the officer at the scene didn’t know that at the time.

The court invoked an exception because the officer relied on a law that was deemed constitutional at the time. Suppressing the blood test evidence would “serve no other purpose than to withhold reliable information from the truth-seeking process and punish an officer for doing its job,” Jabar wrote.

The ruling was “bitter” for Weddle because he lost his appeal even though he prevailed on the constitutional argument, said defense attorney Jeremy Pratt. Pratt said he’d probably appeal but needed more time review the decision.

Two justices, Donald Alexander and Robert Clifford, issued a separate opinion concurring with the decision to uphold the conviction but disagreeing on the issue of constitutionality.

Clifford wrote that it was wrong to second-guess the officer at a chaotic scene of a five-vehicle crash in which Weddle was upside down in his cab, another motorist was dead in a car and an additional vehicle was on fire.

Asking police officers to stop and assess the need for further investigation or a warrant while people may be dying is “both short-sighted and unreasonable,” he wrote.

Macomber agreed that it’s a tall order for law enforcement officers to establish probable cause at the scene of a crash.

“Law enforcement’s attention is primarily focused on life-saving activities, so it’s going to be a challenge to develop probable cause,” Macomber said. “But to get blood, they’re going to have to do it now.”

Schools briefly lockdown after threat

ORONO (AP) — Several schools in northern and eastern Maine went into lockdown mode on Jan. 31 after a local business received a threat that mentioned Sen. Susan Collins, school officials said.

An Orono business received the threat that morning in the form of a vague email message, Orono High School Principal Reg Ruhlin told the Bangor Daily News. Another school superintendent said the threat specified Collins and listed several high schools in the state.

Some of the schools, including a high school in Bangor, went into a “soft lockdown,” meaning school continued as normal but no one was allowed in or out of school until further notice.

The lockdowns took place during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Collins, a Republican who is up for reelection, has been under close watch during the proceedings because of the possibility she could emerge as a swing vote.

State Police said Friday they are working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation on the threat, which police described as “a web-based threat received against a dozen Maine high schools.”

State Police declined to release the specifics of the threat. They said investigators were working to find the source of the threat and assess its credibility.

Last modified on Tuesday, 04 February 2020 05:25

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