BANGOR – Six anti-war activists – including Henry Braun of Weld and Douglas Rawlings of Chesterville – were acquitted this week on criminal trespassing charges.

The six were arrested for refusing to leave a federal building in Bangor during a protest at U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ office more than a year ago.

The Penobscot County Superior Court jury returned the verdict Wednesday after 2 hours of deliberations following a two-day trial.

Twelve Mainers were arrested on March 8, 2007, while protesting President Bush’s proposal to increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq and urging Collins, a Republican, to vote against federal funding for the war.

Six of those arrested pleaded guilty to criminal trespass and paid fines. But the other six decided to take their cases to a jury.

“To be honest, I’m a little incredulous,” said James Freeman, 59, of Verona Island, one of those acquitted. “I thought there was a remote chance that we’d have a hung jury, but I didn’t expect this. The fact that this was a not-guilty verdict says something about the way the wind is blowing in this state.”

Freeman said the outcome shows that people have had “enough of this war, enough of corruption and enough of high oil prices.”

Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy, who did not prosecute the case himself, shared Freeman’s sentiments.

“I think that the public in Maine is so disgusted with the war in Iraq that they demonstrated their disgust with this verdict,” said Almy, a Democrat. “And, that they are upset with (Sen. Olympia) Snowe and Collins for getting us involved in this debacle.”

Almy said the verdict would likely affect whether his office prosecutes protesters arrested in the federal building in the future.

“At this point,” Almy said, “we’re going to have to consider the precedent that this verdict sets and we may very well have to consider giving these cases to the U.S. attorney to prosecute because this state court case may preclude successful future prosecutions.”

U.S. Attorney Paula Silsby said she would have to research whether her office had jurisdiction to prosecute people arrested in the federal building in Bangor.

Years earlier, she said, protesters arrested at the federal building in Portland were prosecuted in federal court.

When informed of the verdict, Collins’ spokeswoman Jen Burita said, “We are pleased that the matter has been resolved.”

In addition to Freeman, Braun, 77, and Rawlings, 61, those acquitted included Jonathan Kreps, 57, of Appleton; Dudley F. Hendrick, 66, of Deer Isle; and Robert Shetterly, 61, of Brooksville.


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