AUGUSTA – Four women, including a Benton selectwoman, were convicted Thursday of criminal trespass for refusing police orders to leave the grounds of the governor’s residence during an Occupy Augusta protest last November.
Jurors deliberated about 30 minutes before returning the verdict late Thursday morning, the second day of trial in Kennebec County Superior Court.
Convicted were Elizabeth A. Burke, 49, of Union, Kimberly G. Cormier, 47, of Benton, and Patricia L. Messier, 63, and Jenny M. Gray, 54, both of Wiscasset, all of whom testified in their own defense Wednesday.
Justice Michaela Murphy imposed fines of $250 each on Cormier, Messier and Gray, none of whom had criminal records. She fined Burke $400. Burke was convicted a decade ago of criminal trespass in a protest in Knox County.
The conviction and fine didn’t daunt Messier.
“We’re still going to protest. We’re still going to occupy,” she said, adding, “We’re going to try not to get arrested again.”
The four women were participants in a protest that erupted after people involved in the Occupy Augusta movement were told they would have to stop camping in Capitol Park at night and get a permit to continue using the park by day starting Nov. 28. A handful of protesters established a tent city in the park in mid-October as part of the national Occupy movement.
The defendants were among a group who marched across State Street to the Blaine House — the governor’s residence — to object to the decision putting limits on the camp. Gov. Paul LePage was not there
Maine State Police, local officers and Capitol Police arrived and told the protesters to leave. A number of people departed, but nine remained and were arrested.
This was the second trial for the four women; a mistrial was declared in April after a different jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict.
Gray said she had hoped for another split verdict from the jury of nine women and three men.
“I’m just hoping on some level something will clink in their heads and they’ll side with the effort to correct vast corruption, some of it obvious and some of it not so obvious,” Gray said.
“I’m discouraged that they didn’t deliberate very long at all, and it made me feel they didn’t give it much thought,” Burke said.
Cormier said she does not think the misdemeanor conviction will affect her ability to continue as a selectwoman in Benton, but added she is disappointed with the verdict.
“We can let Wall Street walk away with $29 billion of taxpayer money, but we can’t say anything about it,” she said.
Three men and one woman were previously convicted in Kennebec County Superior Court.
The ninth person and the only one not yet convicted in the incident, James Freeman of Verona Island, is scheduled for docket call and jury selection in early September.
The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney James Mitchell Jr., sought fines that were slightly higher than the judge imposed.
“We’re pleased with the jury’s verdict,” Acting District Attorney Alan Kelley said shortly after the case ended.
“It’s further confirmation of the fact that this particular incident was not an instance related to the exercise of their constitutional rights. It was a trespass on property from where they could be lawfully and rightfully excluded.”
Kelley and Mitchell said they would prefer a resolution instead of trial in Freeman’s case.
“We would like to just resolve that case, but he has a constitutional right to a trial,” Kelley said.
Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631, or at: