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8/27/2014 2:00:00 PM
Prosecutor Dismisses Charges in Wiscasset Fight
J.W. Oliver

A prosecutor has dismissed an aggravated assault charge against a Damariscotta man for his role in an altercation outside the Wiscasset town office last July.

Michael L. Hanna, 39, of Damariscotta, allegedly choked a Bristol man in the altercation, but the Bristol man then allegedly dragged Hanna behind his vehicle for 200 yards and ran him over, according to Assistant District Attorney Andrew Wright.

Assistant District Attorney Andrew Wright cited "fairness and justice" and a question of witness credibility in dismissing the class B felony charge against Hanna.

The dismissal brings to an end attempts to prosecute both parties to the incident.

Hanna and James T. "B.J." Fitzpatrick, 64, of Bristol, allegedly fought outside the town office shortly before 9:30 a.m., July 10, 2013, according to The Lincoln County News archives.

The fight was the result of "a personal dispute, I believe, about a mutual friend," Wright said. Fitzpatrick and Hanna "stopped at the Wiscasset town hall after following each other in their vehicles."

"Michael Hanna actually went and choked the victim unconscious while he was sitting in his driver's seat, and eventually somebody honked their horn," Wright said. Fitzpatrick "regained consciousness and drove off, dragging Mr. Hanna down the road about 200 yards and eventually running over him."

Hanna was hospitalized for months, Wright said. He sustained a brain injury, permanent muscle and nerve damage, and the "possibility of future amputation of limbs" remains, Wright said.

The investigation initially focused on the driver of the vehicle.

The Wiscasset Police Department identified the driver as Fitzpatrick and charged him with leaving the scene of a personal injury accident and reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon, both class C felonies, July 11, 2013.

Several weeks later, police charged Hanna with aggravated assault.

The district attorney's office dismissed the charges against Fitzpatrick Dec. 9, 2013, citing insufficient evidence.

A grand jury indicted Hanna Dec. 10, 2013.

Fitzpatrick's attorney, William Avantaggio, told The Lincoln County News at the time that "it appears to have been a case of self-defense" for Fitzpatrick, an account he said was backed up by "a number of eyewitnesses."

Fitzpatrick has since been charged with felony possession of a firearm by a prohibited person after accidentally shooting himself in the hand and leg with a shotgun in an unrelated incident March 20.

He cannot possess firearms due to a 1987 felony conviction for terrorizing with a dangerous weapon, according to his May 5 indictment.

The district attorney's office dismissed the charge against Hanna Aug. 7.

Hanna suffered "life-threatening injuries at the hands of the victim in this case," Wright said in the dismissal. "Those injuries continue to be significant and (Hanna) is seriously and permanently impaired by those injuries."

"Furthermore, a witness in this matter has had a change of circumstances that calls into question his credibility," Wright said. "Considering all of these factors, the state moves to dismiss the present charges in the interest of fairness and justice."

Wright said Fitzpatrick's indictment after the shooting incident "definitely" contributed to the dismissal.

"As things played out, Mr. Hanna's injuries became apparently more and more severe and Mr. Fitzpatrick's future actions cast more and more doubt on his credibility," Wright told The Lincoln County News. "It seemed just to dismiss this current indictment and not move forward against Mr. Hanna."

"I think both parties showed very poor judgment," Wright said. "Mr. Hanna, I think, was the initial aggressor, which obviously set up some significant self-defense issues leading to the dismissal of the charges against Mr. Fitzpatrick, however, Mr. Fitzpatrick's actions were less than exemplary."

A class B charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine; a class C charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

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