An Augusta man who’s been ensnared in high-profile political disputes and an election violation has been charged by police with kicking a puppy last month on the Kennebec River Rail Trail.

Michael Hein, 45, has been summoned on a charge of animal cruelty, Augusta Police Lt. Kevin Lully said Monday. The charge, a class D offense, carries a potential 364-day jail sentence and $2,000 fine.

Hein allegedly kicked Brewer, a 4-month-old golden retriever puppy, on Nov. 23 as it walked with its owner, AmyLou Craig, on the rail trail in Augusta.

Lully said the investigation determined that the puppy, which was on a leash, moved in Hein’s direction as he jogged toward Brewer and Craig on the rail trail. There was a quick exchange between Hein and Craig.

“The male stopped and kicked the dog,” Lully said.

He said the investigation, led by Animal Control Officer Francois Roodman and police Officer David Adams, included statements from several witnesses with varying degrees of involvement, including those who came forward to report similar incidents and those who recognized Hein and provided information.

“According to witness statements, he kicked the dog, sending it into the air,” Lully said. The kick injured the dog, but it has recovered, Lully said.

Hein did not respond to multiple attempts to reach him for comment on Monday.

In July 2012, Hein was sentenced to serve seven days in jail after pleading guilty to a charge of willful violation of the Maine Clean Election Act. Prosecutors said Hein tried to qualify for public financing under the Clean Election Act and needed qualifying contributions of $5 each from 60 registered voters in House District 57, which at the time was part of Augusta. Hein admitted that he broke the law by paying for those contributions out of his own wallet.

Hein told the state ethics panel that he paid the contributions because some of the people he approached “did not have the personal means to make a $5 donation,” according to court documents.

Hein lost the Republican primary election to Andrew Worcester, who later withdrew his name from the race.

Hein, who was fired by the Christian Civic League of Maine in 2010, went to the Maine Human Rights Commission, charging that the league retaliated against him as a “whistleblower” for telling the Department of Labor that the group had an illegal working relationship with a staff writer, Fritz Spencer.

Hein maintained that Spencer, who also rented living quarters upstairs at the league’s Sewall Street offices, functioned as an employee, not as an independent contractor.

Hein also claimed the league retaliated against him in writing on April 27, 2011, in a letter asking him to quit using a logo of the Maine Family Policy Council, return a computer hard drive and stop using the group’s email list.

A state panel in 2012 cleared the league of wrongdoing.

Craig works at College Carry-Out, where a sign out front has been calling for “Justice for Brewer” since shortly after the incident. She said Monday she learned a few weeks ago that police had identified a suspect and had been previously unaware that Hein had been charged.

“I’m grateful that they’re moving forward with it,” Craig said.

Craig said shortly after the attack that the jogger threatened to kick Brewer if Craig did not shorten its leash. She said she did not shorten the retractable leash immediately because she didn’t want to yank on the dog’s neck. She said the dog was no less than 3 feet from the jogger.

“The next thing I knew, he just hauled off and kicked him,” Craig said, adding that the dog flew about 4 feet into the air.

“Even as he approached, it didn’t feel like it was a threatening situation,” Craig said shortly after the attack. “When he said, ‘Shorten your leash,’ I didn’t think he was serious.”

Craig posted an account of the incident on her Facebook page, a post that has been shared nearly 400 times since. Craig said Monday she posted the comment to warn people using the rail trail. She was taken aback by the anger she heard and saw both online and from those who came in the store. Craig urged people to refrain from making threats or worse.

“I don’t want this to end in a more negative way,” she said. “I just want the rail trail to be a safer place.”

Brewer, who was left with a limp by the kick, has made a complete recovery, Craig said.

“He’s good. He’s so good,” she said. “He’s still a really sweet, calm, smart dog.”

Craig said she is thankful to those who have offered support and encouragement to her and Brewer.

“It’s become so important to so many people,” she said. “I’m so grateful for that.”

Hein is expected to make his initial court appearance at 8:30 a.m. on March 22.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

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Twitter: @CraigCrosby4