The attorney representing an Augusta man accused of kicking a puppy on the Kennebec River Rail Trail said his client “vehemently denies” any wrongdoing.

Scott Hess, who represents 45-year-old Michael Hein, said in a release that Hein never kicked the 4-month-old golden retriever puppy in November as it walked on a leash with its owner, AmyLou Craig. Hess said Hein is confident he will be cleared of the charges once all the facts are made public.

Augusta police on Friday charged Hein with animal cruelty, a class D crime that carries a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Hein on Monday failed to respond to multiple attempts to reach him for comment.

“Mr. Hein vehemently denies the accusation against him,” Hess said. “He in no way, shape, or form kicked or otherwise harmed the dog and intends to contest the matter in court.”

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.

In 2006, Hein made headlines by leading a protest against the use of live models in a downtown Augusta lingerie shop called Spellbound. He asked police to investigate what he described as indecent activities at the store and said he worried about school buses that passed by the windows. The store closed later that year after about a year in business.

The rail trail incident happened Nov. 23 when Hein allegedly kicked Brewer, a 4-month-old golden retriever puppy, as it walked with Craig on the walking path in Augusta.

Augusta police Lt. Kevin Lully said Monday that 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.

Craig said Monday she had learned a few weeks ago that police had identified a suspect and had been unaware previously that Hein had been charged.

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.”

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

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

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4