Jury Reaches No Verdict on Felony Charge in Swanville Veteran’s Trial
A jury in Waldo County Superior Court in Belfast on Tuesday evening found itself in a deadlock at the end of four and half hours of deliberation.It was time for jurors to decide a verdict in the case of 28-year-old Benjamin Thompson of Swanville. But they couldn’t reach a unanimous decision on whether Thompson was guilty or not guilty of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, the only felony charge in Thompson’s five count indictment.”That’s why we headed to trial was over the felony aspect of this trial, so that’s still the key issue and it’s still up in the air right now,” said Waldo County Deputy District Attorney Eric Walker.The state argued that in June, Thompson was driving drunk with a loaded gun in his car when he failed to stop for police. On Monday, the officer in this case testified when Thompson did stop, he got out of the car with the gun in his hand and was holding it in a threatening manner.The officer shot Thompson four times.Walker said, “Obviously this gentleman pulled a loaded shotgun on an officer and I felt very strongly that we needed a felony conviction so that Mr. Thompson would never possess a firearm again.”Thompson is an Iraq veteran who suffers from severe PTSD, an undisputed fact in this trial. Defense Attorney Steven Peterson argued he was in an abnormal state of mind that night, which made him unable to act knowingly or intentionally. “He was really suicidal, he was not intending to threaten anybody, did not intend to harm anybody else except himself,” said Peterson.In closing statements, Walker argued Thompson’s mental condition doesn’t give him the right to endanger other people or threaten police officers. It came as no great surprise to either attorney that the jury was unable to agree on just what was going through Thompson’s mind that night.”I think when you get into proving mental states it’s very difficult to get to the bottom of that,” said Peterson.Walker said, “I think everyone going into this trial knew that there was going to be a real battle over the mental state here, so I’m not surprised. I think the jury worked really hard on the issue, but it’s complex.”The jury did reach unanimous decisions on four lesser charges. They found Thompson guilty of OUI, having a loaded firearm in his vehicle, and failure to stop for an officer. They found him not guilty of threatening display of a weapon.From here, the district attorney might ask for a retrial on the criminal threatening charge.”Maybe a different jury would see it differently. I don’t know yet and we have to sort of just reassess I think after talking to the jurors and find out if there’s something we could do differently, we’ll try that maybe. But the evidence really is sort of what it is and you can’t change that,” explained Walker.If the state decides against the retrial, Thompson’s case will move on to sentencing on the three guilty charges.