In a packed courtroom, Dawn Murray held back tears in reciting how searching for municipal documents resulted in a harassment suit which ultimately led to her resignation as an Edgecomb selectman. Murray made her statement after District Court Judge John Martin rejected Edgecomb resident Timothy Harrington’s request Jan. 11 to modify or terminate a year-long protection order.
On Nov. 2, Murray along with Edgecomb resident Alan Whitman were successful in obtaining a protection order barring Harrington from contacting them. Martin ruled they met the burden of proof in seeking a protection order. Both presented evidence showing Harrington had harassed them through a series of emails regarding a property dispute, in Whitman’s case, and Freedom of Access Act requests, in Murray’s case. Both provided evidence showing Harrington sent numerous emails with an ominous tone and bizarre stories having nothing to do with the dispute.
On Jan. 11, all parties returned to district court in Harrington’s attempt to amend the order. Harrington and Murray were prepared to call witnesses. Martin reviewed court documents for 30 minutes before denying Harrington’s request without hearing from any witnesses. Martin first ruled Harrington didn’t “have standing” to terminate the protection order. He stated only the petitioners could make such a request.
Martin also denied the request to amend the order. He described affidavits Harrington submitted as irrelevant. “I don’t see any matter dealing with harassment. All this seems outside the proceedings or pending other possible lawsuits,” Martin said. “When I read this, you are asking to reconsider certain aspects of the order. There is no new evidence here. It’s just stating what you have in the past.”
Martin did make one change from his November ruling. Harrington represented himself in both court hearings. The judge ruled if Harrington continued with his lawsuits in district court or sought more FOAA requests, he must engage legal representation. “It’s unfair to bring these two people in here again. This is not the venue for what you are arguing,” he said. “If you file another motion, you need counsel to review what you are asking. If you are going to file a motion to modify, you are going to need counsel to review that, too,” he said.
Following the judge’s ruling, Murray sought a loss of income ruling. In describing her resignation, Murray told the court she retired after serving 35 years in the military, and wanted to continue serving her new hometown as a resident. She served on the school committee before her election as selectman. “I literally have a whole courtroom full of people who literally have my back. I want to thank them for coming,” she said. “But I’ve lost $2,500 due to resigning my position. So I’m asking the court to review evidence, and award me lost income.”
Whitman also made a request. He wanted his protection order to include prohibiting Harrington from owning firearms and weapons. The judge denied both Murray’s and Whitman’s requests, saying each should have been addressed in the November hearing.
While Martin was denying Murray’s request, Harrington started to shuffle papers which led to a judicial admonishment. “Mr. Harrington, please stop shuffling papers. I’m not going to tolerate it anymore. I don’t have the authority to do anything about it, but it’s going to stop,” Martin ordered. Harrington responded “then lock me up in handcuffs.”
Later Harrington stood up while Murray spoke. The judge, again, addressed Harrington’s action. “Sit down, Mr. Harrington!”
At the end of Murray’s request, Harrington offered to “reimburse” her for lost income. “I have no problem with that. The check is in the mail, but I can’t due to the protection order,” Harrington said. The judge did not appreciate Harrington’s proposal. “I find it funny Mr. Harrington you claim the protection order prevents you from having contact, but you file all these motions,” Martin said. As the judge spoke, Harrington said “Judge, judge.”
But Martin was not interested. “I’m not arguing with you. I’m telling you. You pick and choose what you want to hear,” he said. Harrington responded “that’s not true.”
Following the hearing, both Murray and Whitman were pleased with the outcome. “I was not surprised he didn’t listen to any witnesses. It was the right thing to do,” she said. Whitman believed the lawsuit “was an abuse of the system.”
As for Whitman, he was more interested in the number of domestic cases which followed his hearing. He commented about the many domestic violence protection orders being heard in district court. He was not surprised by the decision in the day’s matters involving Harrington. “Not really, considering the tone of the whole protection order regarding so many high profile cases in Edgecomb,” he said. “I’m surprised thinking giving people a piece of paper will stop anything. In Lincoln County, there are a lot of problems with drugs and alcohol, and we got to get people to stop hurting themselves.”
As for any future lawsuits, Harrington said he would take a “wait and see” approach. “I’ve been done with Edgecomb for two months. I’m moving on. I have a job interview next week and a trade show next month,” he said. I haven't thought much about it, so we must see what happens.”