Trial of man shot by officer may be heard in veterans' court

By Tanya Mitchell | Sep 15, 2012
Source: File image BenjaminThompson

Belfast — A United States Marine Corps veteran from Belfast who allegedly brandished a gun during a June 2011 traffic stop and was shot by a police officer as a result may not have his case heard in Waldo County Superior court, according to his attorney.

Benjamin Thompson, 28, of Belfast is facing charges of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, threatening display of a weapon, keeping a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, operating under the influence (with one prior conviction) and failure to stop for a police officer following a series of events that began on the night of June 8, 2011.

Steven C. Peterson of Rockport represents Thompson, and in a telephone interview Friday, Sept. 14, Peterson said Thompson's case may be heard in what he referred to as veterans' court instead of at Waldo County Superior Court in Belfast.

"This is almost a brand new thing," said Peterson of the program.

Peterson said the state has recently begun offering veterans' court as an alternative to a typical criminal trial for military veterans who have returned home with disorders like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and are also facing criminal charges of some kind.

Peterson said Thompson is tentatively scheduled to undergo a screening to determine whether his case may be a fit for veterans' court. That process, Peterson said, includes input from both the district attorney's office and himself as the defense attorney, and all parties would have to agree on moving the case to the alternative venue.

Peterson said if that process moves ahead in the coming week as planned, he should know whether Thompson's case is eligible for veterans' court within a week after the screening is completed.

If Thompson's case is not deemed appropriate for veterans' court, however, Peterson said the criminal trial will be held at Waldo County Superior Court.

"If for any reason this falls through, the case will be on the October docket," said Peterson.

Court documents state 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, according to court records. Thompson then allegedly stepped out of the vehicle and brandished a shotgun. Fitzpatrick reportedly ordered Thompson to drop the weapon, and when Thompson did not comply, Fitzpatrick shot him.

Thompson was arrested at a relative's home in Searsmont on June 29, 2011, after he was released from Maine VA Medical Center in Augusta where he was treated for his wounds. He has since been free on $5,000 cash bail.

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