AUGUSTA — A former state legislator withdrew his guilty plea to a felony charge of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and instead admitted to the misdemeanor offense of criminal threatening Tuesday in Kennebec County Superior Court.

Frederick L. Wintle, 60, of Garland, had successfully completed a 12-month deferred disposition in the case in which he was accused of pulling a gun on a stranger on May 21, 2011, in a Waterville parking lot.

Under the terms of a judge-approved agreement between the prosecutor’s office and Wintle’s attorney, Leonard Sharon, Wintle was sentenced to 364 days in jail, with all but 45 days suspended, which Wintle has already served, and one year of probation. 

If Wintle had not been successful on the 12-month deferred disposition, he could have been sentenced up to five years in prison.

As they were leaving the courtroom after the hearing, Sharon said his client was “too fragile” to talk.

“It’s been a long struggle for him,” Sharon said. “He’ll continue to get counseling and he’s well on his way to getting his life back together.”

Conditions of Wintle’s probation ban him from contact with the victim, Michael Seamans, of Sidney, a photographer for the Morning Sentinel.

Wintle told Justice Nancy Mills that he had nothing to say Tuesday.

Sharon previously said the incident was a result of mental illness in an acute or active phase, and that Wintle was involuntarily committed for treatment shortly afterward.

A year ago in the same courtroom and in front of the same judge, Wintle apologized both to Seamans and to the community that elected him to the Legislature.

“I would like to say I’m sorry for my behavior,” he said at the time. “I’m sorry for what I did. I’m sorry if I caused Mr. Seamans any discomfort.”

Police reports say Wintle pointed a .22-caliber handgun at Seamans in the parking lot of Dunkin’ Donuts on Kennedy Memorial Drive in Waterville.

Waterville police said Wintle didn’t know Seamans and that Seamans had done nothing to provoke the attack as he stopped for coffee on his way to work.

Wintle said he was looking for the drug dealer of a dead boy’s mother in Waterville, according to Seamans. Wintle then pulled the handgun out of his waistband and pointed it at Seamans, who backed away and called police.

The incident was a culmination of recent erratic behavior that had been noticed by fellow legislators.

In March 2011, for instance, Capitol Police were asked to intervene after Wintle complained repeatedly about the condition of the U.S. flag that flies above the State House.

Wintle, who had been a Republican freshman legislator, resigned that post in September 2011.

Other conditions of Wintle’s probation require that he receive mental health counseling to the satisfaction of the probation office, take all medication as prescribed, and ban him from having dangerous weapons, including firearms and ammunition.

Betty Adams — 621-5631
badams@centralmaine.com