The trial of a Searsport man accused of taking a fifth-grade class hostage at Stockton Springs Elementary School more than two years ago began with the state’s opening argument Friday, Jan. 7, at Waldo County Superior Court.

Jury selection for the trial against 57-year-old Randall Hofland wrapped up Friday afternoon, following a selection process that began the previous morning.

Hofland is facing 41 charges that include 22 counts of kidnapping, 12 counts of criminal restraint with a dangerous weapon, six counts of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and a burglary charge.  All of the charges — except for one count of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon — stem from Hofland’s appearance Oct. 31, 2008, at Stockton Springs Elementary School, during which he is accused of entering the school, brandishing a handgun and taking the fifth-grade class hostage.

The remaining charge of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon involves an incident during which Hofland allegedly pointed a gun at Searsport Police Officer Jessica Danielson during a routine traffic stop eight days earlier on Route 1 in Searsport. A manhunt that began following that incident failed to locate Hofland, and his whereabouts were unknown until he was arrested at the elementary school.

As the trial got underway Friday afternoon, Justice Jeffrey Hjelm answered a few questions from Hofland, who is serving as his own lead attorney, and Jeffrey Toothaker, who is serving as a stand-by attorney for the defense.

Toothaker and Hofland requested that the state give Hofland advance notice of whom they will call for witnesses each day, as it will afford Hofland the time he needs to prepare. Hofland also inquired about his access to legal documents and other materials he needs to proceed with his case, and Justice Hjelm told Hofland that the matters could be discussed after opening arguments.

The defense also asked that Hofland be allowed to move the lectern that is used by attorneys when questioning witnesses, as Hofland expressed an interest in being close to the jury box, but Justice Hjelm denied that request.

“The lectern will stay where it is,” he said.

District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau requested that three of the charges against Hofland be amended to reflect the accurate names of the Stockton Springs Elementary School children who Hofland allegedly took hostage. With no objections from Hofland, Justice Hjelm approved the request to correct the record.

Justice Hjelm then went over the 41 charges that Hofland is facing, and explained to the 12 jurors and four alternates that because the burden of proof lies with the state, he is not required to testify.

Justice Hjelm also told jurors that they must return separate decisions on all 41 counts against Hofland, and that none of the charges, no matter how closely related, may be combined when they are deliberating.

Prior to the start of opening arguments, Hofland and his attorney told Justice Hjelm that Hofland was reserving his right to present his opening statements later in the trial.

After court was adjourned, Hofland told members of the media he would likely wait to present his opening argument until after the prosecution finished presenting its case. The first of the state’s witnesses are scheduled to testify when the trial resumes Monday, Jan. 10.

In his opening statements, Rushlau offered a synopsis of what the state alleges occurred in Searsport and Stockton Springs between the dates of Oct. 23 and Oct. 31, 2008.

Rushlau told jurors of two events that Hofland was allegedly involved in during that eight-day span.

“These two events were both violent events,” said Rushlau. “The first involved police officers, and the second involved children.”

Rushlau outlined the events of Oct. 23, 2008, when the Searsport Police Department, in conjunction with the Maine State Police, conducted a seat belt detail on Route 1. The officers involved, said Rushlau, described the detail as routine until a Subaru stopped about 100 feet away from the site of the detail just before 11 p.m. The vehicle had its high beams on, said Rushlau, and former Searsport Police Officer Jessica Danielson approached the vehicle and instructed the operator to dim the headlights.

Rushlau told jurors that Danielson recalled hearing the voice of an apparently agitated male, who was using profanity. When Danielson got close enough to the vehicle to see inside the driver’s side, Rushlau said she saw a man pointing a gun at her.

“She jumps back, yelling, ‘Gun! Gun!’,” Rushlau said.

Danielson’s yelling caught the attention of the other officers who were present, Rushlau said, a group that included former Searsport Police Officer Steve Saucier, Searsport Police Chief Dick LaHaye, and Eric Bonney, Darrin Moody and Mike Larrivee, also with the SPD.

Rushlau said from there, the Subaru accelerated and turned down a nearby dirt driveway, and all the while the operator shouted for the officers to get out of his way. Soon, Rushlau said, the vehicle stopped and faced where the officers were positioned. Police instructed the driver to stop, but he did not.

“The figure disappeared into the darkness,” said Rushlau.

Rushlau stated that Bonney recalled seeing the glow of a cell phone as the man walked away. In the meantime, Rushlau said, a man called the Waldo County Regional Communications Center and identified himself as Randall Hofland. The man identified as Hofland stated that police had made a traffic stop in front of the property where he lived, and further stated that he wanted them to leave.

After a few minutes, Rushlau said, the dispatcher asked Hofland if he had a gun, to which Hofland replied that he “acted in self-defense.” Then, Rushlau said, Hofland again asked that the police “leave immediately and never bother me again.” Rushlau said Hofland followed that comment up with, “Am I clear?”

At that point, Rushlau said, police believed they were dealing with Hofland and proceeded to secure a warrant for his arrest.

“But they were unable to arrest Hofland that night,” said Rushlau. “For the next eight days, [Randall] Hofland is at large.”

The next day, Danielson and Moody examined the Subaru that was abandoned at the scene. Inside, the officers located a box of ammunition for the Glock pistol that Danielson said she had seen in Hofland’s hands the previous evening.

Hofland previously argued that since the gun was not fired and no one was hurt, the state could not prove that he had committed a violent crime. Friday, Rushlau rebutted Hofland’s argument.

“It is still a violent event because it had the exact effect that was intended,” said Rushlau.

Then, Rushlau said, Hofland appeared at the Stockton Springs Elementary School eight days later, on Oct. 31, 2008. At that time, children in the cafeteria noticed an unknown man who appeared to be trying to pull children into a nearby restroom area. Rushlau said Hofland was speaking with one of the students when school staffer Marcia Williams spotted the exchange, intervened and found the encounter to be unsettling.

“It was scary enough to her that she leaves and calls 911,” said Rushlau. “So far, the emergency in her mind is that there is a man acting strangely who doesn’t belong in school.”

Then, Hofland allegedly tried to separate a second child from his peers, and bus driver Glenn Larrabee intervened. Rushlau said Hofland pulled the gun on Larrabee and the child, but Larrabee was successful in getting the child away and into the care of physical education teacher Dan Campbell. Rushlau said Campbell took the boy into a nearby office and remained there.

Rushlau said at that point, Hofland walked away and it appeared to Larrabee that he was leaving. But Hofland then allegedly turned the corner and went down the hall where the classrooms were located.

“He tries to open the fourth grade door, but he can’t,” said Rushlau, adding that the school staff was already aware of his presence because the school secretary had called for a lockdown of the building moments before.

Then he approached the fifth grade classroom, where teacher Carolyn Russell was about to close and lock the door, Rushlau said. After a brief struggle, Hofland allegedly knocked the woman to the floor.

“Basically he backs her out of the room, leaving him with the children,” Rushlau said.

People throughout the building were calling 911 at that point, Rushlau said, while Hofland was allegedly talking to the children.

Rushlau said one of the things Hofland told the children was, “You are my protection.”

Overall, four children were allowed to leave the classroom when they expressed that they were very upset and wanted to leave. At the same time, Rushlau said, the police presence at the school was increasing.

Maine State Police Detective Jason Andrews attempted to negotiate with Hofland, but Rushlau said he was unsuccessful.

“But sometime after that, Mr. Hofland decides that the children can all leave,” Rushlau said.

Hofland allegedly handed the loaded pistol and a belt containing 75 rounds of ammunition to one of the children before he vacated the classroom and was placed under arrest.

“The children were rescued, the children were not hurt, and the gun was never discharged, but it was still a violent event,” Rushlau told jurors. “… Obviously it had an affect on the children, and it had an affect on the adults.”

Rushlau told the jury that the trial could take as long as two weeks to complete, and he encouraged jurors to consider the case carefully, noting that the number of charges against Hofland is no indication of guilt.

After court recessed for the weekend, Hofland took questions from the media.

When asked why he opted to wait on presenting his opening statement, Hofland said he wasn’t prepared to give it yet, and that he felt there was a better time and place for it.

“It would be more relevant to the jury to hear my opening statements after the prosecution presents its case,” said Hofland.

Hofland also denied much of what Rushlau presented in his opening statements.

“Most of what you heard is not true,” he said.

Hofland said he hopes the children involved do not believe he was trying to scare them.

“They told me certain things, like for instance, they told me they were afraid of the police,” he said. “I did not try to scare them.”

Delays in the start of his trial, Hofland said, have been due to untimely delivery of documents and other materials he needs to move ahead with his case. He also blamed the judicial schedule, and what he referred to as the prosecution’s attempt to disprove his assertion that he is the victim of a conspiracy.

“The DA decided that he was going to prove that there was not a conspiracy and he unfortunately stepped on a land mine,” said Hofland.

The trial is expected to resume at 9 a.m. Monday, Jan. 10, at Waldo County Superior Court.