Judge rebuffs Scarborough's attempt to resurrect Doyle case

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PORTLAND — A Superior Court justice declined to reconsider his dismissal of the town of Scarborough’s allegation of criminal trespass against a frequent government critic.

Justice Andrew Horton on May 17 said he was being “polite” by allowing the town to object to the dismissal of its claim against Falmouth resident Michael Doyle.

Horton said state law dictates an alleged victim – in this case, the town – has a right to be notified about a dismissal, so he allowed the hearing. But he added he had no authority to grant the town’s motion to reconsider the case. 

Horton said the decision to proceed with the case or not falls to the district attorney’s office, which declined to prosecute. 

Doyle, 69, was arrested last November at a Scarborough Town Council meeting. He was charged with a misdemeanor count of criminal trespass for refusing to leave the meeting after his time during a public comment period had expired. He violated the town’s code of decorum, was disrespectful, and defamed the town manager, the town’s attorney, Mark Franco, claimed. 

Scarborough Town Manager Thomas Hall said he doesn’t know how much money the case cost the town, because legal representation is covered by the Maine Municipal Association’s risk management service. All bills are sent directly to MMA’s insurance staff, Hall said, adding the municipal insurance goes as far as selecting an attorney to represent the town. 

At the November meeting Doyle ridiculed the town’s bid to lure an Amazon headquarters to Scarborough Downs, and suggested that Hall left his previous job in Rockland under suspicious circumstances. Then-council Chairman Shawn Babine and former Councilor William Donovan interrupted Doyle when he began to criticize Hall.

When Doyle protested and said he still had time to speak, Babine asked him to leave the meeting. Doyle then sat down, but Scarborough Police Officer Mary Pearson asked him to stand, handcuffed him and led him from the Council Chambers.

Doyle, a frequent critic of town government, argued he was illegally instructed to leave a public meeting. He said comments he made about Hall’s previous employment did not constitute disorderly conduct, and his removal from the meeting violated his First Amendment right to free speech.

The town was not represented at the April 19 hearing when the case was dismissed, although it was noted by Assistant District Attorney William Barry that the town objected to dismissal. 

Franco said neither he nor the town were notified of the hearing date, and so he filed a motion in April to reconsider the case. He asked the court to reschedule the matter for oral arguments, contending the town was denied the opportunity to object to the motion for dismissal. 

Franco said he was in the process of drafting a response to Doyle’s motion when he learned the case had been dismissed.

Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781.3661 ext. 106., or at jlaaka@theforecaster.net or on Twitter @JulietteLaaka.

Michael Doyle

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