A South Portland teen is facing more felony-level charges as prosecutors now say he attempted to lure someone into a scheme to commit murder at South Portland High School last fall. 

Tristan Hamilton, 16, was charged with criminal solicitation, arson and terrorizing on Tuesday, nearly five months after a regional SWAT team raided his Elm Street home, according to court records. Criminal solicitation and arson are both Class A charges, the highest level of crime in Maine. Officers arrested Hamilton and his father, Adam Hamilton, during the April raid and seized several high-powered rifles.

After the arrests, South Portland Police Chief Daniel Ahern said the teenager made several threats to “cause serious harm to individuals and groups using specific weapons.” He told News Center Maine that the arrest likely stopped a violent attack on the community.

Yet for months, law enforcement and prosecutors have shared little information about the case, including the identity of the teenager and the specific threats they say he made.

An initial set of charges filed against Hamilton in April appeared unrelated to the threats Ahern referenced. Prosecutors said the teenager stole and attempted to recklessly damage or destroy a flag or flagpole on April 2. Information about the type of flag was not disclosed and the name of its owner was redacted. They also accused Hamilton of damaging a storage container belonging to the city of South Portland and starting or maintaining a fire “with intent to damage or destroy property.” Court records did not say whether the defendant was accused of burning the stolen flag or something else.

Juvenile criminal records in Maine are generally unavailable to the public, except when minors have been charged with the most serious crimes. Because arson is a Class A crime, the April petition was available to the public until Hamilton’s lawyers filed a motion to seal the document. The Press Herald elected not to publish Hamilton’s identity at the time because prosecutors did not explain how the charges related to a possible planned attack on the community.



The more serious charges filed Tuesday offer some new clues, but details about what led to Hamilton’s arrest remain hazy. It’s not yet clear if the new records will remain public or if attorneys will again move to seal them.

Cumberland County District Attorney Jackie Sartoris declined to answer questions Thursday about whom Hamilton allegedly attempted to bring into his plan and what evidence her office has to support the allegations, citing rules that limit what prosecutors can share about active cases. She did not share more information about whom prosecutors believe Hamilton was targeting, except to say that there were “multiple potential victims.”

She said the case poses a challenge for officials tasked with balancing the dueling interests of informing the public about safety threats and protecting the privacy of minors charged with breaking the law.

“The need for confidentiality is very high in a juvenile case,” she said. “Obviously when you have no information, it’s not a great situation; I think it stimulates fear. It’s a fine line for us to try to provide the public with information.”

The few details offered in a charging petition state that sometime between Aug. 1 and Nov. 30 of last year, Hamilton, “under circumstances that he believed made it probable that the crime would take place … did command or attempt to induce another person … to commit murder against faculty, staff and/or students at South Portland High School,” court documents state.


The terrorizing charges stem from an incident sometime between April 1 and Aug. 11 of this year, when Hamilton allegedly threatened a victim, referenced only by their initials, by “making a throat-slitting gesture,” the petition states.

The arson charge filed Tuesday is in addition to the Class A charge already levied against the teenager from an April 2 incident, Sartoris said. The new document does not include any details about what Hamilton allegedly burned.

The charges filed Tuesday carry a combined maximum penalty of up to 61 years in prison.


More information about the case may be difficult to access due to statutes designed to protect the privacy of minors in the criminal justice system. Other than the petition, court filings will remain sealed from the public unless prosecutors attempt to convince the court to try Hamilton as an adult.

But open hearings, including a hearing on a potential defense motion to seal the new petition, could offer an opportunity for members of the public to learn more about the charges against Hamilton, Sartoris said.


Victims of crimes committed by minors are allowed to access juvenile case records and hearings that are closed to the public. The wording of the solicitation charge on the petition suggests faculty, staff and students of South Portland High School have the right to view the case records and attend any hearings.

Tristan Hamilton’s attorneys, Amber Miller and Mark Peltier, refused to answer questions about the case Thursday.

Adam Hamilton did not return a message asking to discuss the charges against him and his son. Last month, a Cumberland County Grand Jury indicted him on charges that he obstructed police as they attempted to arrest his son in April, then refused to submit to arrest himself. He faces a maximum penalty of up to 6 ½ years in prison.

Adam Hamilton’s attorney, Amber Tucker, said in a statement Thursday night that it’s “disappointing” the state pursued charges against her client.

“This was a father who was truly concerned about his son. He came out of his home only to see a SWAT team with numerous assault rifles pointed at his son’s head. He tried to learn what was going on, and was shot with a bean bag gun, causing serious injury and hospitalization,” she said. “We look forward to Mr. Hamilton’s day in court as I have full confidence that he will be exonerated of these allegations by a fair and impartial jury of his peers.”

Sartoris would not confirm if Tristan Hamilton has been released from custody, but she said that he is not currently a threat to the community.

South Portland Superintendent Tim Matheney said he was unaware of the new charges and declined to discuss the case. He said the district has recently implemented new measures to improve school safety and emergency response, including a full-time director of operations and safety.

“South Portland schools are and will continue to be safe places for learning for all of our students,” he said. “We work really hard every day to ensure the safety of our students and our staff, and we appreciate all of the efforts of the South Portland Police Department in supporting that mission.”

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: