Saturday, December 7, 2013
By MATT HONGOLTZ-HETLING Morning Sentinel
FARMINGTON – Rumford lawyer Ron Hoffman offered a tearful apology Friday for phoning in bomb threats to two Wilton schools before pleading no contest in Franklin County Superior Court and accepting a deal to pay restitution.
"I'm not asking for forgiveness," Hoffman said, choking up while reading a written statement. "It's my fault."
Under terms of the plea agreement, Hoffman was ordered to pay $5,677.50 in restitution to the school district and emergency agencies for the March 29 incident.
Hoffman phoned in separate bomb threats to Academy Hill and Cushing schools that led to the evacuation of 360 children.
Under the agreement, Hoffman will also be required to avoid the schools, take all prescribed medications as directed, submit to regular psychological counseling sessions and follow the advice of his doctors and counselors.
Should Hoffman fail to adhere to the terms of the agreement, he will serve two consecutive 364-day jail sentences, one for each of two misdemeanor charges of terrorizing.
School district officials and parents attended the sentencing and urged Judge Nancy Mills to weigh the impact of the bomb threats as she considered the plea agreement.
Teachers and Darlene Paine, principal of both schools, described chaotic scenes of frightened, crying children as they were evacuated to other schools in the area. They said that everyone was anxious as teachers tried to connect children with parents at the end of the day.
"I mourn the loss of innocence that our students suffered that day," Paine said.
After the hearing, Paine said the judge was fair.
"I trusted her decision," she said.
A few of Hoffman's colleagues urged Mills to consider his clean criminal record and efforts to seek help for his medical problems.
Hoffman's attorney, James Martemucci, told the judge that Hoffman suffers from "multiple, serious chronic diseases," including diabetes, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety and Graves' disease, a thyroid gland disorder that can cause anxiety, irritability and fatigue.
"He became so anxious, so fatigued, so depressed, he was not acting in his right mind," Martemucci said.
Mills addressed concerns raised by school officials that Hoffman's status as a lawyer was getting him special treatment. She said that the process and his sentencing were in line with other similar offenses and said "he's not going to be treated any worse just because he's a lawyer."
She said that, while the impact on the community was an aggravating factor in the case, there were several mitigating circumstances that called for compassion. She cited his clean record, his remorseful manner, and the steps that he had taken to seek treatment.
Hoffman, who graduated from the Massachusetts School of Law in 1996, has acted as the defense attorney in several high-profile cases in Maine, including that of murderer Christian Nielsen, who is serving a life sentence.
A complaint before the Board of Overseers of the Bar about his law practice is pending.
Matt Hongoltz-Hetling - 861-9287