A South Portland teen who is accused of planning a school shooting now awaits a judge’s decision about whether he will have to face any time at Maine’s only youth prison.

Tristan Hamilton, 17, maintains he should not be found guilty of criminal solicitation of murder or arson after the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office argued that he tried to enlist his classmates in a planned shooting at South Portland High School.

The two-day trial in Cumberland County Juvenile Court wrapped up Tuesday afternoon with testimony from his former friend and new social media evidence. 

District Court Judge Peter Darvin said Tuesday that he will review the evidence and set a date in about three weeks to announce his decision. Darvin said based on the evidence he saw, Hamilton could just be a kid who “dabbled in offensive beliefs, speech and role play,” or one who actually planned an attack on South Portland High School.

Juvenile courts have a lot of leeway when it comes to sentencing, or adjudication, which often involves orders to attend school or counseling and submit to close monitoring by juvenile corrections officers. According to state law, teens who are prosecuted in juvenile court cannot be held in custody past their 21st birthday – no matter the seriousness of the charge.

Prosecutors claim that Hamilton had a fascination with neo-Nazi ideology and the Columbine shooters, access to guns and an intent to recruit others in his plan to shoot up his high school. But Hamilton’s attorneys argue that the basis of those accusations depends on unreliable testimony from Hamilton’s former friend, Logan Rall, 19, who Darvin described as a “flawed” witness at a hearing in March.


“Although our client has been presumed guilty in the court of public opinion, he is innocent of these charges,” Hamilton’s attorney Amber Miller said in a statement. “We have full faith that the Court will weigh the evidence presented and make the right decision. Our client eagerly awaits an acquittal on both charges.”

Tuesday’s debate centered around whether Hamilton could actually be convicted of criminal solicitation of murder, an unusual charge. According to Maine law, criminal solicitation occurs when someone has the intent to cause a crime they believe is probable to occur, and makes or tries to make someone commit the crime.

Prosecutors argued, based on testimony from two of Hamilton’s classmates, that the teen tried to enlist at least two students to participate in his alleged school shooting plan. Authorities say the evidence shows he was in the process of planning the shooting for the 2024-25 school year, a “reasonable timeline” for an elaborate plan they believe would have involved pipe bombs and other weapons.

But Mark Peltier, one of Hamilton’s attorneys, said there’s a “gaping hole” in the evidence needed to prove criminal solicitation.

Peltier argued that while prosecutors do have evidence about Hamilton’s intent to commit the crime and recruit others, they didn’t present sufficient evidence that the shooting was actually going to take place.

He said it’s “not even close” to being an appropriate charge, and that it’s like “trying to jam a square peg into a round hole.”


The defense attorneys also objected to a separate count of arson Hamilton is facing, tied to a June 2022 video where Hamilton set himself on fire with a Molotov cocktail at Wainwright Field while wearing a ghillie suit, a type of camouflage gear often worn by hunters or military snipers.

Hamilton’s attorneys argued that arson shouldn’t apply because Hamilton only endangered himself. But prosecutors said that Hamilton also threw the bottle toward the videographer.


A 17-year-old witness from South Portland High School, who attorneys only referred to as Jane Doe, testified Tuesday that Hamilton invited her to join him in his alleged school shooting plot, but that she always thought he was joking.

She said she was friends with Hamilton before his arrest in April 2023 and shared his interest in “true crime,” especially the Columbine shooting. She said she distanced herself from him because he would go on “racist” rants that she didn’t want to hear. And sometimes, she said, Hamilton would send her “scary images” on Snapchat when she was home alone.

She also said Hamilton had invited her to hang out and set Pride flags on fire while wearing black hoodies and skeleton masks.


But she walked back on some of the statements she made in a prior interview with a South Portland detective where she allegedly said Hamilton “scared” her. She clarified on the stand Tuesday that she was just scared of being interviewed and being considered a snitch.

Prosecutors showed new evidence from Snapchat exchanges between Jane Doe and Hamilton, though the judge deemed four pieces of that evidence irrelevant or incomplete.

One of those was an audio clip from a voice message Hamilton allegedly sent to Jane Doe in May 2022, where he said “not if we shoot up the school senior year.”

Jane Doe said she doesn’t remember the conversation they had before or after the voice message because it had been deleted from Snapchat, which removes messages that aren’t saved in 24 hours, so the judge said he won’t be considering it in his decision.

Other photos and videos showed Hamilton posing with firearms and “playing dress up” by wearing masks and bulletproof vests as Jane Doe described. And some Snapchat screenshots between the teens showed conversations about Columbine memes and Jane Doe making reference to being “homicidal” while pictured at South Portland High School. She told the judge she was surprised to see that she sent that message to Hamilton.

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