After a year in prison for selling marijuana, Andrews Campbell is practicing law.

PORTLAND (AP) – Defense counsel Andrews Campbell’s 30-year legal career has a gaping 13-year hole in the middle, including the year he spent in prison for selling marijuana and his lengthy battle to win reinstatement to the bar.

The former assistant attorney general and two-time Republican legislative candidate sold encyclopedias, computers and tour ship berths before working his way back into the system.

Campbell, 62, was in the news last month for his defense of Olland Reese, 20, the Bowdoin man convicted of the murder of Cody Greene. It was the first high-profile criminal case Campbell had handled since he quietly returned to practicing law in 1999.

During the 12-day trial in Skowhegan, he vigorously challenged the state’s evidence against his client, even accusing the state police of planting blood evidence at the crime scene.

But Campbell, with his wispy gray hair and thick glasses slipping down his nose, said he is no longer the renegade lawyer of 20 years ago who was ready to take on “the system” from top to bottom.

“I happen to be very pro-system, but as part of the loyal opposition,” Campbell said. “I feel very fortunate to have any role at all.”

Campbell traces his personal fall to his defense of Dennis Friel, a fundamentalist Christian from Bowdoin, who was charged in 1983 with vandalizing churches in three counties. Defending Friel became a passion, Campbell said, and then a full-time job. He estimates that taking the case cost him a million dollars in lost earnings and legal fees, ended his marriage and hurt his children.

Campbell thought that Friel, who allegedly painted “666” and other Satanic messages on the outside of churches, was being punished for the content of his message, not his actions. He called it a “heresy trial” and grew more and more strident in Friel’s defense.

The trial quickly grew into a circus, with the judge ordering Friel out of the courtroom and Campbell remaining silent in protest as the proceedings continued. A mistrial was declared, and both Campbell and Friel were jailed for contempt of court.

Before Friel could be tried again, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that he was entitled to the defense he chose, and could not be tried twice for the same crime.

Campbell appealed the contempt charges, and sued each justice of the supreme court individually. He filed a suit in federal court, challenging the system which paid him almost nothing for his court-appointed defense of the indigent Friel.

Soon there were other arrests. Campbell was convicted twice of drunken driving and in 1985 was arrested for assault.

Campbell now says that the stress of the Friel cases led him to smoke marijuana. “That’s a poor idea for a practicing lawyer,” he said. “It can lead to bad judgment, it certainly did for me.”

In 1987, Campbell attempted to sell two pounds of marijuana to the parents of one of his clients, who was facing federal drug charges himself. They informed on Campbell, and he was arrested.

Campbell, who served as his own defense lawyer, was convicted and sent to prison.

Prison is not as bad as people think, Campbell said. “I met a lot of interesting people of different backgrounds. I learned Arabic and Korean. I played handball every day.”

What’s hard, he said, is life outside. His marriage did not survive his prison term, and he came out without a license to do the only job he knew.

Campbell slowly worked his way back, taking jobs in sales, then working as a paralegal. His first two attempts for reinstatement were rejected. Finally, in 1999, he was allowed to practice law again.

In some ways he has changed since the Friel case.

He no longer drinks or takes drugs, and he doesn’t lose his temper. He said he would withdraw from a case if a client was disrespectful to the court, and he would keep more professional distance from clients than he did with Friel.

But some things he learned, he said, will stay with him forever.

“Friel had an instinct to go for the jugular, which is . . . very important to the adversarial process,” he said. “What he taught me was a better education than any law school could give. And that was how to fight.”

AP-ES-08-04-03 1445EDT

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