A Waldoboro man whose February trial on charges of sex crimes against a young girl ended with a hung jury has reached a plea deal.
Michael A. Stover, 59, pleaded guilty to class D unlawful sexual touching, a misdemeanor, Aug. 28, according to court documents. The state dismissed all other charges.
Superior Court Justice Daniel Billings sentenced Stover to 364 days in custody with all but three days suspended, plus a year of administrative release. Stover had credit for time served, so he will not return to custody unless he violates the terms of his administrative release.
The plea deal comes under unusual circumstances. Stover shot himself the morning of the trial’s second and final day, but survived. He is now blind and can only speak through a medical device, according to Assistant District Attorney Matthew G. Kanwit.
“This is an incredibly unusual case, so we had to be creative and think outside the box and come up with a solution that was reasonable under the circumstances,” Kanwit said.
Due to Stover’s condition, “the benefit of any incarceration would be far outweighed by the cost,” Kanwit said.
Stover’s conditions of administrative release prohibit “non-incidental” contact with children under the age of 16. The conviction does not require registration as a sex offender.
“His threat to the public is low,” Kanwit said, due to his injuries.
The state dismissed one count each of class A gross sexual assault, class B unlawful sexual contact, class C possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, class C solicitation of a child to commit a prohibited act, class C visual sexual aggression against a child, and class D assault; and two counts of class E violation of condition of release.
Class A, B, and C crimes are felonies. Class D and E crimes are misdemeanors.
The victim told two friends about the abuse and her friends told their parents, which led to an investigation, according to an affidavit by Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Detective Scott Hayden. The victim told Hayden the abuse occurred during the winter of 2015-2016. Hayden arrested Stover on June 21, 2016.
The case went to trial Feb. 23. At about 8 a.m. Feb. 24 – shortly before court typically goes into session – Stover shot himself in the face with a 20-gauge shotgun outside his Waldoboro home, according to an affidavit by Hayden.
Waldoboro Emergency Medical Services transported Stover to Medomak Middle School to meet a LifeFlight helicopter, which flew him to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Michael Murphy said at the time.
The trial resumed on schedule and the case went to the jury shortly after lunch. The jury, which did not know about the incident earlier in the morning, deliberated for more than 4 1/2 hours, but ultimately deadlocked. Billings then declared a mistrial.
At the time, Kanwit said it was too early to say whether the state would bring the case to trial again, attempt to negotiate a resolution, or dismiss the charges.
The shooting eventually resulted in more charges against Stover – the firearms charge and one of the bail violations – because he is a felon and cannot legally possess firearms. Hayden arrested Stover on those charges in Portland on March 20.
Stover has felony convictions for burglary, drug trafficking, robbery, and theft from the years 1977-1983, according to an affidavit by Hayden.
The previous owner of the shotgun told Hayden he traded it for marijuana in fall 2016, then returned the marijuana and received $70 from Stover for the gun, according to the affidavit.
Despite the dismissal of most of the charges, Kanwit said he sees the resolution as a win for the state because Stover admitted to a sex crime and the outcome of a second trial would have been uncertain.
Bath attorney David Paris represented Stover in the case involving sex crimes. Waldoboro attorney Daniel C. Purdy represented Stover in the firearms case.