AUGUSTA — The distribution of a notice to people entering the Kennebec County Courthouse nearly derailed the start of a trial earlier today for five co-defendants involved in an Occupy Augusta protest at the governor’s mansion.

The five are accused of defying police orders to leave the Blaine House grounds last November during a protest related to the Occupy Augusta encampment at Capitol Park.

The defendants — Elizabeth A. Burke, 48, of Union; Kimberly G. Cormier, 47, of Benton; Patricia L. Messier, 63, of Wiscasset; Jenny Gray, 54, of Wiscasset; and David J. Page, 44, of Surry — are all represented by attorneys Philip Worden and Lynne Williams. Cormier is a Benton selectwoman.

The judge questioned each of the six men and seven women jurors this morning, asking whether they had been approached outside the courthouse by a man or a woman and offered a piece of paper or saw someone holding an American flag.

Worden told the judge that Gray had helped distribute the literature and did not give it to a woman who identified herself as a juror. Gray also raised her hand to indicate she was holding a Betsy Ross American flag outside the courthouse.

Three jurors said they saw the flag, but only one could point out Gray. Eight jurors said they heard the man — Alan Lowberg, of Hope — either say something about the Constitution or try to give them literature.


None of the jurors said they read it. Most threw it out or gave it to a jury officer.

The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney James Mitchell, argued that Gray’s actions and contact with a juror failed to follow the judge’s order against contact with the jurors, who were selected weeks ago.

“It’s ruined the jury as far as the state is concerned for all the defendants,” Mitchell said.

Worden disagreed, saying Gray’s intent was not to taint the jury.

“What she did was inexcusable, but she took reasonable means not to taint the jury,” Worden said.

Justice Nancy Mills allowed the trial to proceed, saying she was satisfied the jurors could return a fair verdict.


In his opening statement to jurors, Worden said the five defendants were involved in the Occupy Augusta movement, which was protesting against various aspects of economic injustice in society.

Those who had been camping out in Capitol Park for weeks last fall were told they would have to get a permit to continue to use the park by day starting Nov. 28, 2011, and that they would have to leave by dusk each day. They and their supporters marched across State Street to the Blaine House on Nov. 27 to protest the permit requirements.

“They took their protest directly to the governor’s door to let him know how angry they were,” Worden said.

Worden said the defendants were exercising their rights to free speech and to redress grievances. In his opening statement to jurors, Mitchell said the five defendants were not permitted to be on the grounds of the Blaine House, where the governor lives, which he described as non-public. The governor was not there that day.

“If there’s not a function going on and no invitation, it’s not a place people normally gather,” Mitchell said. “It was not open; there were no tours.”

The tent city was dismantled in December after a federal judge ruled that police were within their rights to require a permit.

One defendant, Diane H. Messer, 59, of Liberty, was convicted by a jury March 23 and fined $400. Another defendant, Michael Reynolds, 38, of Lewiston, pleaded guilty and was fined $250.

A criminal trespass charge remains pending against James Freeman, 62, of Verona Island, who is representing himself in the case. He is scheduled for a hearing in June.

The trial of the five co-defendants is expected continue tomorrow as well.

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