A well-known criminal defense attorney from Standish found himself in a reversed role in court Monday, dressed in an orange jail uniform and facing a new round of criminal charges.

Anthony J. Sineni III, 52, appeared with chains around his ankles in the same courtroom at the Cumberland County Courthouse where he usually appears in a suit.

Sineni was arrested Friday, less than a week after he was sentenced in another misdemeanor criminal case. He spent the weekend in jail on charges of violating a protection from abuse order and conditions of his release.

Sineni’s court appearance Monday in Portland wasn’t exceptional for a criminal defendant: He pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charges, and Judge E. Paul Eggert allowed for his release on terms that he would have to pay $5,000 bail if he gets in trouble again. The judge also imposed multiple other conditions related to Sineni’s ex-girlfriend, with whom he shares custody of three children.

Monday’s court appearance was a second round of professional embarrassment for Sineni, whose first case last week drew national attention because of an unusual ruling by the judge. Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz tried unsuccessfully to restrict the media from reporting witness testimony against Sineni or repeating anything that Sineni said in court as a defendant. The Portland Press Herald defied the order, and Moskowitz on Wednesday apologized for issuing the order and rescinded it.

The Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar was already investigating whether to seek discipline against Sineni after the first case, and the second case could add increased scrutiny.

In the first case, Sineni agreed in court on Jan. 5 that there was enough evidence to convict him of assault and disorderly conduct, in exchange for prosecutors dropping a misdemeanor count of domestic violence assault as well as felony charges of witness tampering and possession of a stolen firearm. Moskowitz gave him a deferred disposition on the two remaining charges. After one year, if he did not engage in any new criminal conduct, the disorderly conduct charge would be dropped, and in two years, the assault charge would be dropped.

Sineni had remained free from custody in that first case, but he didn’t make it a week before apparently violating the terms of the deferred disposition.

Sineni and his ex-girlfriend, Winona Hichborn, are going through a contentious custody battle and each has a protection from abuse order against the other, governing when they can communicate and when each of them cares for the children.

On Thursday, Sineni went to two elementary schools in School Administrative District 6 to speak with his children, both at times when he was not allowed to contact them, according to provisions of a protection from abuse order against him, the sheriff’s office said.

Sineni did not remove the children from school, but tried to get information from them about where their mother was living, according to Assistant Attorney General Paul Rucha, who is prosecuting the case.

On Friday, Sineni was arrested in the parking lot of Edna Libby School in Standish when he arrived to pick up the children on his scheduled day, the sheriff’s office said.

Sineni’s attorney, Christopher Largay, argued in court that Sineni only went to the school because school officials asked him to.

“What we’re dealing with here is an interpretation of a civil order, not something that should be a criminal matter,” Largay said. “These kids need to see their dad, and their dad needs to see these kids.”

But Eggert said Sineni should have known better.

“He is an attorney, and the court couldn’t have been more clear about running out to the school,” Eggert said. “He’s not an unsophisticated parent being asked to do that.”

Before Sineni’s arrest Friday, he had been granted weekend custody of the children. As a bail condition, Eggert limited Sineni’s allowed contact with the children to four hours on Saturdays under supervision.

Sineni is next scheduled to appear in court March 24, when the prosecution will seek to revoke his deferred disposition on the first case against him.

 

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