March 15, 2010

Charges against officer dropped in settlement

TREVOR MAXWELL

— By

Staff Writer

A judge has dismissed misdemeanor assault charges against a Portland police officer who was involved in an off-duty bar fight last month.

Officer Todd Bacon, 30, was accused of assaulting two men in the Old Port on July 2. His lawyer said Bacon was defending himself, and both alleged victims appeared in Portland District Court on Tuesday and told Judge Keith Powers that they did not wish to pursue the charges. Instead, the men and Bacon reached a private settlement.

It was an example of a rarely used statute that allows the parties in minor criminal cases to settle disputes as if they were civil matters.

''The Legislature contemplated circumstances such as these,'' said Michael Cunniff, who represented Bacon. ''This was an appropriate outcome.''

The prosecutor in the case, Assistant District Attorney Tracy Bardwell, said the decision to accept the arrangement was solely in the hands of Powers. Bardwell did not oppose the deal and said it was her job to make sure all of the parties followed the rules of the court.

Such arrangements are possible only in simple misdemeanor cases, and they are not always accepted by judges, Bardwell said.

Neither Bardwell nor Cunniff would disclose terms of the settlement.

Bacon remains on unpaid administrative leave from the Portland Police Department, pending an ongoing internal investigation of his conduct, acting Chief Joseph Loughlin said Wednesday.

Cunniff said the fight on July 2 began as a verbal confrontation between Bacon and another man at a bar on Fore Street. The man was making comments that offended some women at the bar, and Bacon told him to stop, Cunniff said.

''As a result, he ended up having to defend himself. Both he and the initial aggressor had slight injuries,'' Cunniff said. ''Todd didn't initiate it.''

A friend of the man who fought with Bacon intervened, also suffering minor injuries.

The two men filed affidavits with the court requesting that the criminal charges against Bacon be dismissed. They did not provide their version of events in the court filings.

In the agreement approved by Powers on Tuesday, all of the parties are prohibited from suing each other.

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at:

tmaxwell@pressherald.com

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