“American Pie” singer Don McLean has threatened a weekly newspaper with legal action for writing about his ex-wife’s exhibition of photos about domestic abuse – including her own – at the Camden Public Library.

The former Camden couple divorced after a 29-year marriage following an incident at their home in 2016 that led to several domestic violence-related charges to which Don McLean pleaded guilty. Now, Patrisha McLean, who believes her ex-husband’s career has suffered little from the incident, is trying to bring awareness to domestic violence by sharing her own story and those of a dozen Maine women in an exhibition that she plans to bring around the state of photos, audio and text, including a copy of the protection order she received against her husband.

After the Free Press of Rockland wrote about the exhibition “Finding Our Voices: Breaking the Silence of Domestic Abuse” on Feb. 7, Don McLean’s attorney, Eric B. Morse of the Rockland firm Strout & Payson, threatened to sue the paper and characterized Patrisha McLean’s claims of abuse by her ex-husband as “vicious misstatements. Your spreading of these false and salacious lies about Mr. McLean will cause him professional and personal damage, and must be taken down immediately.”

The paper removed the story from its website so its lawyers could review it. Its sister publications – the Courier-Gazette, Camden Herald and Republican Journal – responded Thursday with another front-page report about the exhibition and Don McLean’s legal demands, and the original Free Press article on VillageSoup.com as part of its story.

The papers printed the letter they received from his attorney, as well as the response of their own attorney, Sigmund D. Schutz of the Portland firm Preti Flaherty, who defended the paper’s First Amendment rights and questioned why McLean was suing a weekly paper when other media outlets in Maine, across the country and across the world have publicized the case.

“The Free Press is not responsible for her exhibit. It is being presented by the Camden Public Library,” wrote Schutz, who also represents the Portland Press Herald.

Library administrators have not heard from McLean or his lawyers about the exhibition “first- or second-hand, or at all,” said Kevin Gross, assistant director of the Camden Public Library. “We’ve had no negative response about the exhibition from any quarters. People have had a strong reaction and a pretty somber reaction. People think it’s an important topic, and Patrisha McLean seems to be the right person to draw attention to it.”

Neither Don McLean nor his lawyer returned phone messages seeking comment on Thursday.

‘HE IS STILL DOGGING ME’

This photo of Patrisha McLean’s bruised arm is part of the Finding Our Voices exhibit. Contributed photo

Reade Brower, owner of the Free Press and Courier-Gazette, who also owns the company that publishes the Portland Press Herald, said this situation is an example of a small-town newspaper being threatened by a powerful member of the community to try to control what it publishes. Brower said he decided to remove the story from the website after the initial demand to be prudent and allow for a legal review, “but we shouldn’t have been forced to take it down. It’s important that even a small-town newspaper like The Free Press and Courier publications can and do stand up to demand letters like this.”

Patrisha McLean said her ex-husband’s threats are consistent with the power-and-control dynamic often present in abusers. “It’s all about coercion and threats, intimidation and emotional abuse,” she said. “He is trying to control what I do. This has not affected his career at all. He is out there doing his concerts, but I don’t go around making calls to the cities he is (performing) in and writing letters to the editors. He can do whatever he wants, but he is still dogging me.”

Don McLean has been active musically in recent months. According to his website, he had concerts as recently as Feb. 15, when he was scheduled to perform in Wisconsin. His next concerts are scheduled for the third week of March in California. In January, just before the 60th anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly, which inspired McLean to write “American Pie,” his publicists issued a news release that quoted his reflections on the anniversary and plugged an upcoming appearance at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles.

Brower said it was important for the newspaper to stand up to the demands of McLean’s lawyers.

“This is another example of how women who have escaped marriage through divorce are still silenced by their partner. The fact that (Don) McLean has multiple lawyers and lots of money allows him to keep his thumb on Patrisha by doing whatever it takes to keep her silent. Most people can’t fight back,” Brower said. “Luckily for Patrisha, he picked on the newspaper. We are able to fight back for ourselves … and we are fighting for Patrisha, too, now.”

‘WE WILL CHANGE THINGS’

Don McLean was arrested at the couple’s home in Camden on Jan. 18, 2016, and charged with several crimes related to domestic violence. He pleaded guilty to charges of domestic violence assault, domestic violence criminal threatening, criminal mischief and criminal restraint. Other charges were dismissed. The plea deal included conditions that, if met, would lead to the dismissal of the domestic violence assault charge, which happened in July 2017. He paid about $3,600 and settled the case, according to court records. The couple divorced in June 2016.

“Finding Our Voices” is on view at the Camden library through Feb. 28.

Patrisha McLean said she has no plans to stop talking about domestic violence. She will present her story April 9 as part of Pecha Kucha Midcoast in Belfast, and the exhibition will travel to Castine in May and will open for an extended run beginning Sept. 15 at the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine in Augusta.

In March, she plans to go to Augusta to testify in support of a bill, L.D. 748, that would address the economics of domestic abuse, which includes men who prevent women from working outside the house, making them ask for money or keeping the family’s finances a secret. The bill would provide compensation to victims of economic abuse as well as protection from debt collection and restoration of their credit.

“They are letting these guys get away with everything short of murder. It’s disgraceful,” Patrisha McLean said. “We will have a voice in Augusta, and we will change things.”

Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: pphbkeyes

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: