November 20, 2012

Maine high court rejects school gunman's appeal

Randall Hofland is serving a 35-year sentence for breaking into Stockton Springs Elementary and holding 11 children hostage at gunpoint.

From staff reports

PORTLAND — The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has rejected the appeal of a 59-year-old man convicted of taking a fifth-grade classroom hostage at gunpoint.

click image to enlarge

Randall Hofland of Searsport listens as Justice Jeffrey Hjelm reads the dozens charges against him in January 2011.

BDN File Photo

Randall Hofland of Searsport is serving a 35-year sentence following his conviction on 22 counts of kidnapping and other charges for holding 11 children at gunpoint in Stockton Springs on Oct. 31, 2008.

In his appeal, Hofland's claims include that he was denied the right to a speedy trial and the right to self-representation and that the judge illegally sentenced him to consecutive sentences, rather than concurrent sentences.

The court issued a unanimous opinion Tuesday rejecting his claims.

Hefland's 2011 trial attracted widespread attention. Hefland argued that problems stemming from his divorce and losing custody of his children led to his crimes, as well as a vast conspiracy against him.

He said that children who were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder from the incident were doing so because of the lies that adults have told them about their experiences that day.

He also blamed Searsport police Officer Jessica Danielson for the incident. During a traffic stop on Oct. 23, 2008 — eight days before the hostage situation — Hofland was accused of using a 10mm Glock handgun to threaten Danielson before fleeing from police into woods off Route 1.

He lived in the woods as a fugitive for about a week before emerging Oct. 31 at the Stockton Springs Elementary School, where he took the children hostage.

The jury later found him not guilty of threatening Danielson.

''We can all thank Jessica Danielson for this, '' Hofland argued in court.

Despite no one ultimately being physically injured in the incident, Justice Jeffrey Hjelm sentenced Hofland to 35 years in prison in October 2011.

''Mr. Hofland's approach to these proceedings over the last 28 months is based on the notion that the best defense is a good offense, '' Hjelm said during the sentencing hearing. ''Mr. Hofland has taken the approach of blaming everyone in sight except for himself. In no way has he expressed any sincere remorse.''

That lack of remorse, refusal to take responsibility for his actions, the youth of his victims and the fact that the crimes were committed in an elementary school were aggravating factors that Hjelm considered as he determined the sentence.

Those aggravating factors were of ''monumental weight, '' Hjelm said at the hearing, far outweighing the facts that Hofland, 57, had no prior criminal record and that no one suffered serious physical injury.

During the hearing, the children's families also pushed for a stiff sentence.

William Dakin wasn't in the school that day, but broke down in tears as he described how Hofand grabbed his fourth-grade son in the cafeteria while looking for kids to use as protection from police.

''The impact of his crime was enormous. It destroyed that sense of security, '' Waldo County District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau said.

Hofland later apologized for the incident. 'It was totally unlike me. A total brain-fart," Hofland said. ''It was a very temporary madness. ... Very temporary.''

Hofland's lawyer presented an insanity defense during the trial, but the jury rejected that defense.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)