A South Portland teenager is denying allegations that he tried to recruit another person into a scheme to kill members of the South Portland High School community.

Tristan Hamilton, 17, faces charges of criminal solicitation for murder, arson and terrorizing. Wearing a suit, his hair cut short, and joined by his parents, he entered denials – not guilty pleas – to the three charges Thursday morning in a Cumberland County courtroom.

The small room was filled with more than two dozen people, including students, parents, staff and Superintendent Tim Matheney. About half appeared to be family members and supporters.

District Court Judge Peter Darvin said prosecutors have requested a hearing to consider moving Hamilton’s case to adult court. But that request cannot move forward until a forensic analysis, a type of mental health assessment, is complete. Darvin set a deadline for Dec. 28.

The judge agreed last month that the criminal proceedings against Hamilton will remain open to the public but said he would continue to restrict the types of information prosecutors can share publicly. He agreed with prosecutors that the public interest in learning more about the case outweighed Hamilton’s right to privacy as a minor.

The hearing to consider moving his case to adult court will be public, Darvin said, including discussion of the evidence against him, which has not yet been disclosed.


The arrest of the teenager and his father following a SWAT raid on their home drew widespread attention in April, especially after South Portland Police Chief Dan Ahern told the media that the teen had planned to use specific weapons to cause serious harm to individuals and groups, and that the arrest likely stopped a violent attack on the community.

For months, details about the investigation have remained elusive. Under Maine law, the public is barred from accessing juvenile criminal court records and proceedings in all cases but those involving the most serious Class A crimes.

Prosecutors later charged Hamilton with arson, criminal mischief and theft – a charging document referenced a stolen flag and a damaged trash bin, but did not specify whether the teenager is accused of burning the flag or something else.

The Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office filed a new set of charges last month that appeared more closely linked with the SWAT raid. These are the charges Hamilton denied in the public court hearing Thursday.

According to the petition, sometime between Aug. 1 and Nov. 30, 2022, 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.”

He also allegedly committed a separate act of arson sometime between January 2021 and April 2023 and threatened another person, referenced only by their initials, by making a throat-slitting gesture sometime between May 1 and Aug. 11 of this year.



Darvin has rejected prosecutors’ multiple requests to detain Hamilton at the Long Creek Youth Development Center. He said Thursday that the conditions of Hamilton’s release have been very strict and that it would be unprecedented to detain him now.

“I have no reason to believe the public is currently at risk,” Darvin said. “I’m not asking you to take my word for it. … I’m just saying the court is satisfied.”

“I can’t address fearmongering, rumormongering. Those things are outside my control,” he said.

Hamilton was briefly held at the juvenile facility after his arrest in April. He was released later that month under several conditions: He is prohibited from possessing weapons and flammable objects, barred from going to school grounds, must receive therapy, must check in with a juvenile community corrections officer multiple times a day and is under a tracking monitor.

Hamilton’s corrections officer told the judge that the teenager has been in compliance, and while he has “abutted making serious violations” he remains in very close contact with her and she is “very much aware” of where he is and what he’s doing.


“None of these are violations of his conditions of release. The state is creating and perpetuating fear within the community,” Hamilton’s defense attorney, Amber Miller, told the room.

The judge did add a few new restrictions, including that Hamilton cannot go within 200 feet of the high school, cannot attend school events, and cannot have contact with the victim in the terrorizing charge.

Hamilton nodded as the judge read the new conditions Thursday.

Many in the school community were alarmed last month when the school was put on lockdown for about an hour after a “suspicious individual” was seen on school property. The individual, later identified as a teenager, was carrying an airsoft gun replica and did not intend to harm anyone, Matheney said at the time.

The incident had no connection to Hamilton, Matheney said, but it still rattled some teachers who say they are frustrated with what they see as the district’s lack of transparency about how it’s responding to the pending criminal charges against Hamilton. That same week, the teenager was seen near the school and talking with students, prompting more questions about his release conditions.

“It should have been abundantly clear to him that this would cause distress,” Assistant District Attorney Abby Couture said. “We have heard from victims who are terrified.


“Understandably, there is a perception around the community that Tristan is carefree and unsupervised. He does not appear to appreciate the level of fear he has instilled. Or he doesn’t care,” Couture said.

Until Thursday, those conditions had largely not been disclosed to the public.

Hamilton’s father, Adam Hamilton, is also charged with attempting to stop police from arresting him and his son during the raid.

Prosecutors said Thursday that the elder Hamilton has gone to the police station to request they return the seized guns. Couture called it a sign that the family is not taking the charges seriously.

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