Portland police have handed a criminal mischief allegation against a critic of the department to the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office, which will decide whether to pursue the case.

Meanwhile, a city councilor has asked to review police video of two officers’ visit to Christian MilNeil’s home Tuesday morning, when, according to his wife, they threatened to arrest him and alluded to “your preconceived notions about police.”

Police on Tuesday tried to issue a summons to MilNeil for allegedly writing graffiti on two city buildings. But MilNeil refused to accept the summons, instead posting messages and a photo on Twitter saying he believed the allegation stemmed from tweets he has posted that have criticized Portland police and policing in general. He has denied the graffiti allegation.

Tina Nadeau, an attorney representing MilNeil, said she told police Tuesday afternoon that she would accept the summons on her client’s behalf. But she was told Wednesday morning that the matter had been turned over to the District Attorney’s Office.

MilNeil live-tweeted the interaction with police Tuesday morning, posting a picture of a uniformed officer and another man in his yard.

MilNeil said the officer told his wife, Jessica MilNeil, “I know for a fact you have your preconceived notions about police,” which led MilNeil to believe the incident was more about his tweets than any criminal allegation.


He also said police threatened to arrest him and search his house before they left the premises.

Police responded with a tweet of their own explaining they were trying to serve MilNeil with a summons on the graffiti charge and then Nadeau got involved, asking police to contact her instead of engaging in a back-and-forth with her client and the public on Twitter. The police department said in the tweet that the case would be turned over to the DA.

Police have refused to provide any additional information, saying they don’t release details once a case has been forwarded to the DA’s office for review. They would not say whether there is video evidence supporting the graffiti allegations.

However, Portland City Attorney Danielle West-Chuhta told city councilors Tuesday that police acted “based on video footage.”

District Attorney Jonathan Sahrbeck declined Wednesday afternoon to answer questions about the MilNeil case. However, he said it’s not unusual for such matters to be turned over to his office. As with any summons, one issued to MilNeil or his attorney would notify him of the allegation against him and set a date for him to appear in court, Sahrbeck said.

Nadeau said she has filed papers to ensure that police preserve any video of the alleged graffiti incident, along with video of the encounter Tuesday and any other evidence related to MilNeil.


A Portland Press Herald Freedom of Access Act request for video of Tuesday’s visit to the MilNeil home was denied by Portland police Wednesday. The department said the release was barred by a provision that limits public disclosure of “nonconviction data and intelligence and investigative information.”

City Councilor Kimberly Cook also has asked for body camera footage of Tuesday’s encounter and wants the MilNeil incident to be investigated as part of a review of police actions in response to Black Lives Matter protests in the city.

Cook said Councilor Pious Ali requested the report on police actions during the protests. She said the footage from police body cameras of the visit to MilNeil’s house could help resolve questions about the incident, but she had not gotten a response to a request made through the city manager’s office for that video.

“I thought it makes complete sense to ensure that … the questions that are out there are answered,” she said.

MilNeil edits Streets Blog Mass, a transit-focused blog and news website based in Boston, and is a former data journalist at the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. He also serves as a commissioner on the Portland Public Housing Authority board, and is a frequent advocate for public housing and public transit-focused planning initiatives.

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