Tuesday, March 11, 2014
PORTLAND — The defense in the federal trial of Benjamin Lee, who is accused of driving from Missouri to Maine with a carload of guns to track down his estranged wife and her new boyfriend, called its final witnesses Friday. Lee did not take the stand in his own defense.
Lee’s attorney, James Clifford, called four defense witnesses, including a medical expert and one of Lee’s sisters, who testified in U.S. District Court in Portland. Lee’s mother and brother testified via video conference from a remote courtroom in Missouri.
Lee, 52, of Springfield, Mo., has pleaded not guilty to two counts of interstate stalking. He is accused of crossing state lines with the intention to kill, injure, harass or intimidate his wife, Tawny Lee, and her boyfriend, Timothy Mann, or to conduct surveillance with intention to kill, injure, harass or intimidate them.
After the jury left the room for a late-morning recess, Judge D. Brock Hornby asked Lee whether he would testify in his own defense. Lee, who first consulted with Clifford, said he had decided not to.
Friday is the fourth day of Lee’s trial. The prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Darcie McElwee, and Clifford were expected to make closing arguments Monday.
Lee has been in custody since his arrest Sept. 7, 2012, just minutes after his wife, Tawny Lee, called 911 in Limerick, Maine, to report that Lee had been driving back and forth outside her house and that he was possibly armed.
Lee had many weapons in his borrowed Cadillac at the time of his arrest, including three loaded guns, two unloaded rifles and a machete, as well as handcuffs, a roll of black plastic sheeting, latex gloves and camouflage face paint, according to an FBI agent who testified Thursday.
Christine Brown Irish testified as a medical expert about Lee’s condition during five hospitalizations before his arrest.
Lee, who has diabetes and a heart condition, had broken his back in a car crash in March 2012, about a month before his wife left him for Mann, whom she had first dated as a teenager.
Irish, a doctor at Maine Medical Center, summarized Lee’s medical records – 1,500 to 2,000 pages of documentation – describing him as having an “altered mental status” from extremely low blood sugar levels on multiple hospital admissions.
“His diabetes was being poorly controlled during this time,” Irish said, referring to Lee’s hospital admissions in April and May of 2012.
During that time, Lee sent multiple emails to his wife, threatening her and Mann.
Clifford has said that Lee was affected by that altered mental state and medications when he sent the threatening messages.
Lee’s mother, Florence Walker, and brother, Allen Lee, testified via video conference about Lee’s poor health during this time.
Lee’s sister, Linda Watson, said she called for an ambulance to take Lee to a hospital again on May 20, after diabetic shock caused him to lose consciousness.
“I didn’t think he would live,” Watson said, adding that she took what she thought would be a final photograph of him.
Clifford has argued that the prosecution would not be able to prove that Lee intended to harm his wife or Mann.
Another of Lee’s sisters, Stella Lee, testified earlier in the week that she phoned Tawny Lee to warn her after hearing Benjamin Lee repeatedly threaten to kill his estranged wife.