Pair of criminal cases scheduled for next month

Mitchell to be sentenced, Thompson retrial moving forward
By Tanya Mitchell | Jan 24, 2013
Source: File image

Belfast — The retrial of a Belfast man accused of threatening a Belfast police officer with a firearm during a traffic stop and the sentencing hearing of a Frankfort woman charged in connection with the mauling death of her infant daughter are scheduled to take place in February.

The State vs. Benjamin Thompson

Benjamin Thompson of Belfast, who was shot by a Belfast police officer during a June 2011 traffic stop, will be retried on the one charge jurors were unable to arrive at a decision about at the end of his October trial.

In December, Walker said the retrial of the 28-year-old Thompson on a charge of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon would likely begin in February. Court records show Thompson is scheduled to appear at Waldo County Superior Court Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 11 a.m., but a clerk at Fifth District Court said Thompson’s case file does not specify whether that date will be for the purposes of jury selection or for other pre-trial matters.

After Thompson’s criminal trial last fall, jurors returned guilty verdicts on three of the five charges he faced in connection with the June 8, 2011, traffic stop — keeping a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, operating under the influence (with one prior conviction) and failure to stop for a police officer. Jurors additionally found Thompson not guilty of threatening display of a weapon, but told Justice Robert Murray they were deadlocked after four hours of deliberation on the criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon charge.

Thompson was scheduled for a sentencing hearing at the end of November, but Walker said the matter was continued because the state intended to retry Thompson on the criminal threatening charge.

Court documents state that Thompson initially caught the attention of law enforcement when Searsport Police Officer Eric Marcel attempted to stop his vehicle for a loud exhaust on Brock Road.

When Thompson arrived at the intersection of Route 141 and Smart Road in Belfast, Belfast Police Officer Dan Fitzpatrick executed the traffic stop. Thompson then reportedly stepped out of the vehicle and brandished a shotgun. Fitzpatrick, according to court records, ordered Thompson to drop the weapon. When Thompson did not comply, Fitzpatrick shot him.

Thompson, a veteran of the Iraq war, was arrested at a relative's home in Searsmont on June 29, 2011, after he was released from the Maine VA Medical Center in Augusta, where he was treated for his wounds. Thompson has since been free on $5,000 cash bail, and he has remained free on post-conviction bail since the conclusion of the trial.

Thompson's military service was a key element of his defense throughout the three-day trial. During the trial, Thompson's defense attorney, Steven C. Peterson, argued that Thompson's actions on the night of the incident were directly linked to post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition Peterson and several of the defense's expert witnesses contended Thompson suffers from as a result of two tours he completed in Iraq.

The State vs. Katrina Mitchell

A clerk at Fifth District Court confirmed that the sentencing hearing for 31-year-old Katrina Mitchell of Frankfort is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 6, at 1 p.m. The hearing will take place at Waldo County Superior Court.

Mitchell, who was accused of endangering the welfare of her infant daughter after the family dog mauled the child to death in April 2011, pleaded no contest to that charge at Fifth District Court in December.

Terms of the plea deal state Mitchell will be subject to a sentence of 364 days in jail with all but three months suspended and one year of probation upon her release, according to previously published reports. The plea agreement also includes Waldo County Deputy District Attorney Eric Walker's recommendations that Mitchell undergo substance abuse and psychological counseling as part of her probation, as well as refraining from using or possessing drugs or alcohol and submitting to random searches and tests for those substances.

According to court records, Mitchell was arrested on a charge of Class D endangering the welfare of a child in July 2011 after a police investigation determined the family dog — an 89-pound Rottweiler named Hannibal — mauled her 7-month-old daughter, Annabelle, to death on the night of April 12, 2011. Additionally, police alleged that Mitchell was intoxicated and "passed out" at the time of her daughter's death.

An affidavit from Maine State Police Detective Adam Kelley stated that Mitchell was “hitting, kicking and slapping” ambulance attendants who had responded to her home on the night of April 12, and that she was so unsteady on her feet that a police officer and an ambulance worker had to hold her up by her arms to get her from the porch to the ambulance.

Court records show Mitchell told police she had her first drink of beer at about 3 p.m., but that she took three or four shots of vodka after she called her husband and 911 to report her daughter's death.

Later that night, according to Kelley’s affidavit, police interviewed Mitchell at Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast, where Mitchell stated that her baby fell asleep on one end of the couch and that she was asleep on the other end of the same couch.

“Katrina [Mitchell] stated that her dog, Hannibal, attacked and killed Annabelle [Mitchell], but she did not know how, because there was no noise,” stated Kelley in his affidavit.

Court records also outline the findings of Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Ferenc, who conducted the autopsy on Annabelle Mitchell’s body. In his statements to Kelley, Ferenc concluded the child would have been able to audibly cry for help, based on the nature of her injuries.

Following Mitchell’s December court appearance, Walker said the three-month portion of Mitchell's sentence represents a cap, meaning Mitchell may argue for less time served on the day of her sentencing hearing.

Walker said Mitchell has been doing "very well" adhering to the conditions of her release in the 18 months she's been out on bail, and she has also worked well with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

Mitchell's attorney, Aaron Fethke, said his client is hoping for closure at this time.

"Katrina [Mitchell] and her family are looking forward to putting this entire ordeal behind them," he said.

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