Mercy Hospital loses appeal over records in man’s death

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Wednesday dismissed Mercy Hospital’s appeal over documents related to the death of the alleged victim in a manslaughter trial.

Opening statements in the trial of Ernest Weidul were scheduled Tuesday, but the trial was suspended as Mercy Hospital fought the judge’s order to disclose information related to peer and internal reviews of the death of Roger Downs Jr., 46.

Weidul, 52, is charged with manslaughter in Downs’ death in 2010. The prosecution contends that Downs’ died from a closing of his airways caused by injuries. Weidul’s legal team argues that Downs died from a type of pneumonia and is seeking the hospital records as part of its defense.

Thomas Connolly, one of Weidul’s lawyers, noted that the information is generally confidential but sometimes that confidentiality can give way to other rights like the right to confront and cross-examine in a criminal trial.

While the court has dismissed the hospital’s appeal, it’s not clear when the trial will begin. Justice Joyce Wheeler, the trial judge, has set a hearing for 9 a.m. today to determine how to proceed with her order.

Steven Johnson, an Augusta-based lawyer representing the hospital, would not comment on the case. 

Man charged in stabbing of woman after argument

Police have charged a man in the stabbing of a woman on Cedar Street on May 9.

Police charged Christopher Miller, 29, with elevated aggravated assault in the stabbing of a 42-year-old woman that happened in an apartment at 9 Cedar St. at 1:30 p.m.

Miller lives at 291 Cumberland Ave., at the corner of Cumberland Avenue and Cedar Street.

Police said the two knew each other and had an argument, though they would not be specific about what led to the stabbing. They said it was not a domestic dispute.

The woman was treated at Maine Medical Center for multiple knife wounds to her torso and neck and has been released from the hospital.

Miller was charged Tuesday evening after reporting to the police station to speak with police. He was held on $5,000 bail in the Cumberland County Jail but is temporarily ineligible for bail because he is being held for allegedly violating probation from an earlier robbery charge. 

EPA official will lead forum on new emissions proposals

Curt Spalding, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Regional Administrator, will be in Portland today to lead a roundtable discussion about proposed federal standards to regulate greenhouse gas emissions at new coal-fired power plants.

Carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants are believed to be the leading cause of greenhouse gases, and the rule change will make it harder for new plants — existing plants would be grandfathered — to stay within the required limits.

The forum, which will be held in the Cumberland County Civic Center’s lobby meeting room, will provide Mainers with a look at what the new standards would mean for Maine.

The discussion will also give state forestry and tourism officials, physicians, energy experts, scientists, and local elected officials a chance to offer their perspective on the standards.

Today’s forum is scheduled to last about 90 minutes, beginning at 10:30 a.m. The public will have an opportunity to ask questions. 

Same-sex marriage group opens offices, renews push

The coalition that’s leading the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine has opened three new field offices and relaunched its door-to-door efforts to drum up support.

Mainers United for Marriage has opened offices in Brewer, Lewiston and Portland. A fourth office will open next month in Kennebunk.

The group is leading the campaign in favor of November’s statewide referendum asking voters if they want to legalize same-sex marriage.

The coalition said its staff and volunteers are now going door-to-door to persuade residents to vote in favor of the referendum. 

Obama education official spending today in Portland

Massie Ritsch, the federal deputy assistant secretary for External Affairs and Outreach, will visit Portland today to discuss the Obama administration’s education agenda.

Ritsch will start the day by meeting with the Tri-State Association of School Business Officials at the Holiday Inn by the Bay. That meeting is set to start at 9 a.m.

At 11:30 a.m., Ritsch is scheduled to tour Portland’s Reiche Elementary School, where Ritsch will conduct a roundtable discussion with teachers about the administration’s RESPECT initiative. The initiative aims to engage teachers and principals across America in a national conversation about teaching.

Reiche does not have a school principal. It is led by teachers.

Before returning to Washington, Ritsch will meet with superintendents from Maine school districts.

Electrical workers file suit to recover stolen $260,000

Trustees of a Maine electrical workers union’s trust fund have filed a lawsuit to recover $260,000 they say the fund’s now-dead administrator embezzled.

The lawsuit filed Monday in Kennebec County Superior Court alleges that Donald Sarette stole the money to cover up a theft from another union’s trust fund.

Sarette, 56, died in January when his car his a bridge abutment in Candia, N.H.

Peter DeTroy, a lawyer for the Fairfield-based International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1253, said he plans to meet with Sarette to see how he proposed to repay the embezzled money shortly before he died.

The electrical workers are suing to recover money from the Augusta-based United Association Local 716 trust fund.


Windham biotech company wins approval for new plant

Maine Standards, a biotech firm in Windham with 52 employees, plans to move to Cumberland next year.

The Planning Board approved a site plan Tuesday night that will allow the company to build a $3 million to $5 million facility on Route 1 near Powell Road, said Town Manager Bill Shane.

Town officials enticed the company with a 50 percent tax break for the next 20 years, capped at $500,000, Shane said.

Alyssa Tibbetts, the town’s economic development director, negotiated the credit enhancement agreement with help from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.

The company, which develops products that calibrate laboratory equipment, plans to add about 25 employees in the next three to five years, Shane said.

The town has an active economic development program focused on growing its commercial tax base from 4 percent to 10 percent in the next decade.

Construction of the new plant is expected to start this summer and take about one year.


Residents in RSU 21 approve $35.9 million budget handily

Residents in Regional School Unit 21 on Tuesday approved the district’s $35.9 million budget for 2012-2013.

In total, voters in Arundel, Kennebunk and Kennebunkport approved the budget, 663-302, according to Kennebunkport Town Clerk April Dufoe.

Arundel residents voted 130-82 against the budget, while voters in Kennebunk and Kennebunkport approved it, 399-137 and 182-35, respectively, Dufoe said.


Resident of local hotel faces charges of drug trafficking

A Biddeford man who has been living in a local hotel has been arrested on drug trafficking charges.

Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said John Elwell Sr., 49, was arrested Tuesday by Biddeford police and agents from the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.

Elwell faces charges of aggravated trafficking of marijuana, violating the conditions of his bail (related to a charge of domestic violence) and possession of cocaine.

Authorities said Elwell was living in an apartment at the Thatcher Hotel in Biddeford.

Both agencies had received complaints that Elwell had been selling drugs in the city. The drug trafficking charge was elevated to aggravated because his apartment is within 1,000 feet of the St. James School.


Police follow trail of petals to suspect in cars’ burglary

Investigators followed a trail of flower petals to find the man suspected of breaking into the personal vehicles of Waterville police officers.

Deputy Chief Charles Rumsey said an officer went into the parking lot where police park their cars Monday morning and found that his vehicle had been broken into and flowers removed. A second officer later discovered his vehicle also had been pilfered.

A trail of petals led police to Donald Fencik, 61, hiding under a nearby pedestrian bridge.

Police say Fencik also had clothes, sunglasses, jumper cables and other items that officers said he stole from their vehicles. He also had tools police suspect he stole from a nearby construction site.

Fencik pleaded guilty to motor vehicle burglary and theft and was sentenced to 60 days in jail.


Mother charged with OUI after arrival at child’s school

State police said a 32-year-old woman has been arrested for allegedly being drunk when she showed up at school to pick up her child.

Authorities said Jennifer Marriner was charged with operating under the influence Friday after she drove to the Union Elementary School to pick up her child.

Sgt. Patrick Hood told the Bangor Daily News that when the mother arrived, a school official called state police, who arrived at the scene within a few minutes.

The school did not release the child to the mother before police arrived.

Police say her blood alcohol level was greater than the 0.08 percent legal limit to drive.

She was taken to the Knox County Jail in Rockland and released on bail.