FARMINGTON — A Franklin County justice found Friday that the state did not prove that a Norridgewock man serving time for terrorizing and holding Verso Paper Corp. employees hostage at the Jay mill in March 2012 violated his probation in prison.

Francis G. Smith III, 53, formerly of Norridgewock, was accused of making a threatening statement pertaining to mill employees during an anger management class on July 29, 2014, while at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham.

He was sentenced Nov. 30, 2012, to five years of a 12-year sentence. Once he is released in 2016, he will be on probation for six years.

He pleaded guilty the same day to felony charges of kidnapping, three counts of criminal threatening with a weapon and one count of terrorizing, and a misdemeanor charge of assault. Several sentences on convictions are being served at the same time.

He held the mill manager and two employees at gunpoint during the ordeal that caused the mill to be evacuated and shut down for the day.

On Friday, Smith denied committing new criminal conduct  during the class at the prison.

A hearing on the state’s motion to revoke probation followed in Franklin County Superior Court.

District Attorney Andrew Robinson and defense attorney Walter McKee questioned Noreen Hopkins, a community support leader at the prison and a former corrections officer. She coordinates community programs for inmates, including anger management classes.

She taught an anger management class that Smith voluntarily signed up to take.

During a discussion in one of the classes, Smith talked about revenge and made a comment, which caused concern for Hopkins, she said. She is a mandatory reporter and sent an email to his caseworker and prison officials letting them know what was said. She wanted it to be part of his notes.

She said Smith made a comment that several people needed to watch out, and “if a doctor gave him a short time to live, he was taking several people with him before he went as well.” The last line of her email to authorities read, “I feel this man is extremely dangerous and will follow through” with what he is saying, according to court testimony.

Hopkins said Smith had never brought up revenge before. She believed it was his tone of voice and demeanor when he said it that caused her concern. She tried to get him to think of it from a different angle, but he wouldn’t, she said. She didn’t think he was ready for it, she said.

“He wasn’t angry” when he said it, Hopkins said.

The two had a discussion later, and she told him she sent the email. He was not upset about it, he said.

She passed the information on to others because she felt they needed to know and she was in fear that the people at the paper mill would be hurt, she said.

Hopkins said she convinced Smith to finish the anger management class, which he did on Aug. 19, 2014.

Robinson argued that Smith’s conduct was threatening and he committed new criminal conduct, while McKee argued that it was a discussion in an anger management class where people lay it all out.

“This is rather unusual because it happened in the the context of an anger management class,” Justice William Stokes said. After reviewing several documents, he decided the state did not meet its burden to proof to show Smith made a threat and violated his probation.

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