SKOWHEGAN — A Starks woman has pleaded guilty to spitting on a selectman outside a meeting held to discuss the construction of a cellphone tower she opposed, but her lawyer said she still denies that she did it.
Cindy Brown, 53, is charged with assault after spitting on Starks First Selectman Paul Frederic outside a Planning Board meeting in August. Because of her plea Monday in Somerset County Superior Court, she was released and will have the opportunity to clear her record following a probationary period, according to court documents.
Brown wouldn’t comment Tuesday, but her lawyer said she entered the guilty plea because it allows the charge to be dismissed eventually.
“I don’t think she’s happy with any of what went on,” said John Martin, her attorney. “She continued to deny the allegation that was made. I don’t think she was happy at all pleading guilty.”
He said Brown is happy, however, that the case is resolved and it will not go to trial.
Frederic agreed. “I’m glad the issue is resolved and I hope things can move forward without any additional stress for either party,” he said Tuesday.
By pleading guilty, Brown gave up her right to a trial and accepted a deferred disposition — an agreement with the state that her sentencing is deferred for eight months.
In the meantime, Brown is not allowed to have any contact with Frederic except for at town meetings and is not allowed to go to his home. She also was ordered to pay $288 in restitution to the district attorney’s office for the benefit of the Maine Municipal Association.
The money covers the insurance costs the town incurred for blood tests Frederic had to get after the incident, something that he said the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department recommended to ensure there were no communicable diseases in the saliva.
If Brown violates the conditions, she is subject to arrest and could be sentenced immediately.
If she adheres to the conditions, the charge will be dropped and her record will be cleared. A deferred disposition is a form of sentencing often used to allow offenders to avoid criminal charges and a criminal record if they don’t re-offend in the given time period.
In November, Brown said she was not guilty and it was determined that the case would go to trial. The disposition is also a way of avoiding the stress of going to trial and seemed to be in the Brown’s best interest, Martin said. She is scheduled to appear in court again at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 20, when the case could be dismissed.
Frederic said he hopes the incident is a reminder that both the public and elected officials should hold themselves to a certain standard of conduct at public meetings.
“We all get involved with discussions and debates, and sometimes we are on the winning side and sometimes we’re on the losing side. But being on the losing side doesn’t mean you have the right to assault someone. There’s a certain level of civility that is expected,” Frederic said.
The confrontation between Brown and Frederic happened outside a Planning Board meeting at which a cellphone tower proposed by Boston company Bay Communications II LLC was being discussed. The tower is to be built on property next to Brown’s home on Abijah Hill Road. She and her family have been opposed to it since its inception in June. The Planning Board approved it in August.
In January the town appeals board overturned an appeal submitted by Brown and her husband, in which they said the approval to build the cellphone tower was not done fairly.
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368 firstname.lastname@example.org