FARMINGTON — A 17-year-old Wednesday denied a charge of elevated aggravated assault brought in a shooting that injured his 20-year-old brother last month at their family’s home on Pleasant Drive in North Jay.

The accused, who was identified in one court document by the initials E.P. and in another document by his full name, appeared in Farmington District Court with his attorney, Gina Yamartino, his mother and father, and his grandfather. He arrived at the courthouse with his grandfather. One of the conditions of his release from Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland was that he have no contact with his older brother, a condition that his family told the court they were able to manage.

The teen was arrested Jan. 31 and charged with aggravated assault, a Class B felony. His name was not released at the time because he is a juvenile. He was taken to Long Creek following a detention hearing Feb. 1 and has since been released.

Last week, prosecutors raised the charge to elevated aggravated assault, a Class A felony, which is what he would have faced as an adult.

The court is withholding the name of the brother.

According to police, just before 1 p.m. on Jan. 31, it appears the brothers had a verbal disagreement that escalated into an altercation and the older brother was shot with a handgun. The injuries were not reported to be life-threatening.


Wearing a white golf shirt and casual slacks at his initial court appearance Wednesday, the teen denied the assault charge. Asked by Judge Daniel Mitchell if he was enrolled in school, he said he was not “in a public grade.” Asked if he was working, the teen said he had been employed for two years at a local fast-food restaurant but was now looking for a job.

Two years ago, the Legislature revised the Juvenile Code to make all but the most serious juvenile cases confidential, and to make almost all cases for juveniles under the age of 13 confidential.

Elevated aggravated assault falls into a category of serious cases that are presumptively open, but can be closed by court order.

On Feb. 14, when the juvenile petition was filed in Farmington District Court on the elevated charge, Sun Journal Staff Writer Donna Perry, who covers court cases in Franklin County, asked for access. Under the revised statute, when a request for access is made, the defendant must be informed of the request and be given an opportunity to argue for the case to be sealed.

According to court records, when Yamartino learned the Sun Journal had requested access, she filed a written request with the court for a hearing on whether the court should permit public inspection of the juvenile petition. The file was sealed once that request was made, and a Zoom hearing was set in Lewiston District Court on Tuesday.

Attending that hearing were the juvenile and his attorney, his parents, Assistant District Attorney Ellex St. Pierre, who is prosecuting the case, and Portland attorney Sig Schutz, who represents the Sun Journal.


In his motion to the court for public access to the juvenile petition, Schutz cited layers of case law supporting public access to court proceedings, including a First Circuit ruling in 1989, Globe Newspapers v. Pokaski. In that decision, that court “along with other circuits, has established a First Amendment right of access to records submitted in connection with criminal proceedings. The basis for this right is that without access to documents the public often would not have a ‘full understanding’ of the proceeding and therefore would not always be in a position to serve as an effective check on the system.”

In objecting to the newspaper’s motion for access, Portland attorney Yamartino pointed out that the Juvenile Code requires an analysis of the juvenile’s interest in privacy, the alleged victim’s interest in privacy, the nature of the crime and the characteristics of the juvenile all to be weighed against the public interest.

She argued that Maine’s juvenile justice system is designed to rehabilitate “a young person into a responsible and productive member of the community” and that “most youths, including my client, at the time they’re involved in the system do not fully appreciate the harm that results with information about their case shared publicly until it’s too late. It’s important to the system in reaching its rehabilitative goals” to preserve juvenile confidentiality.

Yamartino also argued that her client, who will be 18 years old March 28 according to court records, will face community stigma if information about his case is made public, and asked the court to safeguard his privacy and protect him from that stigma.

St. Pierre told the court the state would like the juvenile petition to be available for public inspection, but did not file a written motion in support of that position.

In his ruling later Tuesday, Mitchell noted that Yamartino had expressed her arguments well and that he was not unsympathetic to her position, but ordered the juvenile petition to be made public, pointing to guidance under the Juvenile Code that certain juvenile petitions should be public.


In this case, Mitchell pointed to the exception that allows public access if the petition alleges a juvenile crime “that would constitute a Class A crime if committed by an adult,” the juvenile charged is 13 years or older, and “the Juvenile Court has found probable cause to believe the juvenile committed the juvenile crime with which he or she is charged.”

In his ruling, Mitchell said the court must follow the Legislature’s directive in statute, which “creates a presumption that a petition alleging a juvenile crime that would constitute a Class A felony should be open to inspection.” In such cases, he noted, the juvenile bears the burden of convincing the court that his or her interest in privacy outweighs public interest.

According to the order, “although the juvenile has raised valid arguments, the court does not find they overcome the statute’s presumption that petitions of this type should be open to inspection.” The order also noted that the court’s finding is the result of weighing juvenile privacy interests, the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the juvenile himself, and public safety concerns.

Once the court ruled the juvenile petition should be open to inspection, that also opened the Sun Journal’s access to attend Wednesday’s initial court appearance in this case.

The teen is scheduled for a status conference in court April 19.

Editor’s note: Although the Sun Journal is legally entitled to publish the juvenile’s name, we have made an editorial decision not to do so at this time.

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