A U.S. District Court judge has denied a Corinna man’s second attempt to dismiss a federal illegal gun possession indictment.

Chief U.S. District Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. issued the decision Monday, denying a motion by Kenneth L. Goodrich to reconsider the judge’s earlier order upholding the indictment, which charged that Goodrich illegally possessed a gun because he had been committed to a mental institution in the past. An indictment is not a determination of guilt, but an indication that sufficient evidence is present to proceed with formal charges and a trial.

As a result of Woodcock’s decision, Goodrich plans to enter a conditional plea of guilty on Aug. 19, giving him the option of later appealing the matter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston, according to his lawyer, Stephen C. Smith of Bangor.

Smith said Wednesday that the case highlights Constitutional issues concerning the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms and due process rights.

“It’s as if he had his First Amendment right to speak freely and somebody took that away from him without any sort of similar due process,” Smith said.

The case boils down to whether a prior mental health problem should have prevented Goodrich from owning a rifle. It also highlights how mental health problems have already exacted a profound toll on Goodrich’s family.

Kenneth Goodrich is the brother of Perley Goodrich Jr., of Newport, who was found guilty of manslaughter in April of the 2009 shooting death of their father, Perley Goodrich Sr. A jury found that Perley Goodrich Jr. was sane at the time of the crime, even though his defense argued that he should be sent to a psychiatric hospital, not prison, because of a longstanding mental illness that required treatment.

According to Woodcock’s court order, Kenneth Goodrich was ordered by a Maine District Court on April 20, 2006, to be taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and was subsequently involuntarily hospitalized on an emergency basis at The Acadia Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Bangor. It is unclear what happened before Goodrich’s hospitalization.

At Acadia, Dr. Pongsak Huangthaisong treated Goodrich and issued a letter May 8, 2006, stating that “it is our determination that he (Goodrich) is able to maintain his safety and utilize good judgment and may have possession of his firearms again.” However, Woodcoock later dicounted the doctor’s letter, as it didn’t address the legality of gun ownership.

Goodrich possessed a valid Maine license for deer hunting in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2006, according to Woodcock’s order.

“After he received the letter from Acadia, which appeared to grant him permission to have his firearms again, he went to the gun store,” Smith said.

On April 1, 2009, Goodrich went to the Moosehead Trail Trading Post in Palmyra and filled out a transaction form from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He answered “no” to the question had he “ever been committed to a mental institution.” The state of Maine does not report involuntary hospital commitments to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, Woodcock wrote, so after a delay, the federal background system reported to the trading post that Goodrich could buy the gun.

On April 3 of that year, he returned to the trading post and bought a Russian-made Mosin Nagant rifle.

Then, Smith said, “The federal government got wind of that, somehow learned of his mental health commitment, and charged him.”

Woodcock’s order says that law enforcement officers recovered the rifle from Goodrich’s home in Corinna on April 11, 2009. He was indicted on the federal charge March 18, 2010.

In charging Goodrich and seizing his rifle, federal officials pointed to an “open letter to the state’s attorneys general” issued May 9, 2007, by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shooting massacre that left more than 30 people dead in April of that year, the bureau pointed to questions that had arisen “about whether the person responsible for the shootings was prohibited under federal law from possessing a firearm, and how the shooter passed the background check.”

The letter said many states were not submitting mental health information to the national background check system and encouraged state authorities “to take the necessary actions to ensure that all disqualifying information is provided to prevent the purchase of firearms by those prohibited,” which includes anyone who has been committed to a mental institution involuntarily.

Goodrich, who is doing fine now according to Smith, is prohibited from possessing a firearm under his bail conditions for the federal charge, Smith said.

Earlier this year, Woodcock denied Goodrich’s motion to dismiss the indictment. Goodrich, through Smith, had argued that the indictment violated his Constitutional right to bear arms and to due process.

Goodrich argued that a government official had actively misled him into believing that owning a gun was legal, referring to the letter from the Acadia doctor. Woodcock dismissed that argument, saying the letter didn’t address the legality of gun ownership and the letter’s author wasn’t a government or law enforcement official.

“We think that the letter from the doctor should preclude his prosecution,” Smith said. “But far more importantly, is the recent Supreme Court decisions about the Second Amendment which clearly states the Second Amendment is an individual right. If individual rights are important, in our opinion they should not be taken without due process. At a most basic level, there should be notice of what is happening and they should have an opportunity to be heard and present witnesses.”

Smith also downplayed the significance of Goodrich’s involuntary hospitalization at Acadia, saying “it was a short-term commitment that some judge signed somewhere.”

Woodcock concluded in his decision on Monday that Goodrich’s second attempt to dismiss the indictment is flawed and amounts to “a procedure unknown in criminal law.”

Scott Monroe — 861-9239

[email protected]

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