ALFRED — A mistrial was declared Thursday after a jury could not reach a verdict on whether a Buxton selectwoman assaulted another town official.

Jean Harmon was charged with misdemeanor assault after slapping solid-waste manager Gregory Heffernan last year. Harmon said it was a joke among friends, but Hefferman complained to town officials.

The jury at York County Superior Court asked the judge for assistance several times during deliberations Thursday, including to review surveillance footage of the Oct. 3 incident that had been difficult to view when it was projected earlier during the one-day trial.

Harmon’s attorney, Michael Ayotte, said Thursday evening that he didn’t know whether his client would be retried on the Class D charge.

Harmon and Heffernan offered different accounts of what happened on Oct. 3, 2018.

Heffernan testified that Harmon approached him about a memo he had written regarding a disagreement they had about town policy.

Jean Harmon

He said Harmon accused him of “throwing her under the bus” and smacked him on the side of the head near his ear, fully extending her arm and causing his head to rock back. He said that although the pain was not severe, it did hurt.

“I was mostly kind of stunned,” said Heffernan.

Harmon said when she hit Heffernan on Oct. 3, it was a playful “Gibbs slap,” a trademark slap given by “NCIS” character Leroy Jethro Gibbs to members of his team on the television show, and was similar to several she had given him over the years.

“That was just the relationship we had. It was just how we joked around,” she said in a recorded interview to police that was played at court Thursday.

Michael Ayotte, Harmon’s lawyer, said that whenever Heffernan said something silly or made a mistake, she would give him a “Gibbs slap.”

Harmon said she never imagined she had hurt him and that the two were good friends.

“I was devastated” about hearing he was upset, Harmon said during questioning Thursday. Had he told her that it offended him, she would have stopped, she said.

Buxton Selectmen Chairman Cliff Emery and town treasurer Kimberly Beam both testified that over the years, they had witnessed Harmon give Heffernen a “Gibbs slap” in a joking manner. Emery said he had seen Heffernan walk about five or six steps and take off his hat, a sign for Harmon to playfully slap him. Beam said she had seen him walk across the office and approach Harmon in a similar manner.

Emery said he watched security camera footage of the Oct. 3 incident and it looked similar to the the slaps he had witnessed previously.

While Heffernan said he had put out his hand for Harmon to jokingly slap him when he had made a mistake, he had never invited a slap by approaching her and taking off his hat.

Assistant District Attorney Shiela Nevells said while people may make light of the subject, the incident on Oct. 3 was a serious matter.

“The reality is, this wasn’t a scripted TV show. This was real life,” said Nevells. “This slap was different. This was not like the other times.”

Ayotte questioned Heffernan’s credibility after Heffernan testified that he may have been “Gibbs slapped” by Harmon as many as 15 times but said it was only about five times when questioned by police earlier. Heffernan said his previous recall may not have been accurate and his employees told him it had happened more than he remembered.

Ayotte also said while Heffernan said in court that he had been slapped by Harmon once on Oct. 3, he had told police that he was hit multiple times. Heffernan said he may have not been able to think clearly because he was so taken aback.

Emery said tht Heffernan approached him at the transfer station a few weeks after the Oct. 3 incident and said Harmon assaulted him. Emery said Heffernan told him he wanted an apology and a promise from Harmon that she would never do it again.

Emery said that Heffernan got what he said he wanted from Harmon, but after Heffernan talked to an attorney he decided to take action because he feared for his job.

Ayotte said Harmon had been very upfront about the Oct. 3 incident and had sincerely apologized. He said Harmon “had no dog in the game.”

Ayotte questioned why Heffernan had never talked to Harmon or complained to town officials about the “Gibbs slaps” or why he didn’t immediately go to police regarding the alleged assault.

Nevells said that it can be difficult for a man to admit that a woman hit him and it hurt.

Liz Gotthelf – 780-9015

[email protected].

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.