September 19, 2013

Court accepts Biddeford man's insanity plea

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

ALFRED – A Biddeford man who was pulled over last year on the Maine Turnpike with an AK-47 assault rifle, several handguns and news clippings of a mass shooting in Colorado was found not guilty by reason of insanity Thursday.

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Timothy Courtois, left, sits next to his attorney, Clifford Strike, at a hearing Thursday in York County Superior Court in Alfred.

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Timothy Courtois, as he appeared in 2011, left, and as he appeared on the Sunday after his arrest by Maine State Police.

Timothy Courtois, 50, was driving 112 mph on the turnpike when he was stopped by police on July 22, 2012, according to court documents. He told investigators he was on his way to New Hampshire to shoot his former employer.

Courtois also told investigators he had taken a loaded handgun into the Saco Cinemagic Theater during a showing of the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises" one night after a gunman killed 12 people in an Aurora, Colo., theater during the same movie, court papers said.

Courtois entered his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity through his attorney, Clifford Strike, after a hearing Thursday in York County Superior Court to determine whether he was competent to stand trial.

The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney John Connelly, told Justice John O'Neil that he would not contest Courtois' insanity plea, effectively concluding the criminal case at the state level.

The judge ordered Courtois turned over to the custody of the state Department of Health and that he be prohibited from possessing firearms.

Courtois still faces a federal count of making a false statement to acquire a firearm and two counts of possession of firearms by an unlawful user of drugs.

Strike said he intended to write a letter to the federal prosecutor explaining the actions of the state court.

"I expect what (the federal prosecutor) is going to do is dismiss the complaint that's out there," Strike said after the hearing.

A state psychologist, Ann LeBlanc, who is also the director of Maine's State Forensic Service, testified that she had seen a "very significant change" in Courtois' mental ability between his arrest and his subsequent commitment to Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta.

"When I first saw Mr. Courtois in September, he was completely unable to concentrate. When I saw him, he was delusional," LeBlanc said. "He did not demonstrate any types of skills for competency (to stand trial)."

LeBlanc said that Courtois' thinking and behavior at the time of his arrest were "profoundly disturbed" and "severely disordered."

By May, LeBlanc said, the staff at Riverview had created a stable environment that helped Courtois avoid the "emotional ups and downs" he had when she first met him. He would still go off on tangents during conversations, but "he could be redirected," she said.

The judge reviewed six reports about Courtois' mental state, and ruled that he is competent and could have stood trial on state charges of criminal speeding and carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.

Courtois, who was clean-shaven and dressed in a maroon button-down shirt, sat without speaking during the hearing.

According to an affidavit filed in federal court by a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Courtois lied on a form he filled out last year at Cabela's when he bought a DPMS/Panther Arms, Model A-15, .223 caliber rifle, claiming that he did not use illegal drugs.

The agent's statement said Courtois told investigators he was going to Derry, N.H., to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting -- although he didn't drink -- and he asked them to buy him marijuana so he could smoke and eat Chinese food.

Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

sdolan@pressherald.com

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