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Maine lawmaker stays jailed on gun-threat charges

A state lawmaker accused of pulling a gun during a parking lot confrontation over the weekend said he believes "this is going to be all right" after appearing Monday in a courtroom less than a mile from the State House complex.

Rep. Frederick Ladd Wintle, a Republican from Garland, was not required to enter a plea Monday to charges of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and carrying a concealed weapon. He remained held at the Kennebec County Jail on $3,500 bail.

Wintle was arrested Saturday after confronting a man with a .22-caliber handgun outside a Dunkin' Donuts in Waterville, police said.

As part of court-ordered bail conditions, Wintle is barred from having a gun and from entering the State House complex without permission from House Speaker Robert Nutting, said Rep. Kenneth Fredette, an attorney who represented Wintle in court.

As Wintle was being led from the courtroom, he offered this unsolicited remark: "I believe in America. I believe in God. I believe in my family, and I believe this is going to be all right," according to the Bangor Daily News.

Chief Russell Gauvin, who is in charge of State House security, questioned Wintle last week after other lawmakers expressed alarm over Wintle's erratic behavior even before the incident with the gun. Around the same time, Gauvin learned that Wintle had been kicked out of the motel where he sometimes stayed in Augusta.

Gauvin said Wintle told him that his comments were being taken out of context and that people didn't get his sense of humor.

"In any political environment, there's a high tolerance for strong opinions and colorful expressions. That's what the political process is all about," Gauvin said Monday. "We're balancing between what would be a colorful personality and what would be inappropriate."

During Saturday's confrontation, the victim told police that Wintle pointed a handgun at him after accusing him of being a drug dealer for the mother of an infant who died earlier in the week at a homeless shelter. Police said the victim was an "innocent bystander."

Fredette encouraged the public Monday not to rush to judgment against Wintle, an Air Force veteran who's married and has grown children.

"There's a general consensus that his behavior has been unusual and erratic over the last period of a couple of weeks," he said. "This conduct is consistent with that erratic behavior. There are concerns that there may be health issues, whether they be physical health or mental health issues."

It's unclear whether Wintle will be able to make bail. A person who answered Wintle's home phone on Monday hung up on a reporter seeking comment.

Nutting had personally contacted the judge to ask that Wintle be required to keep his distance from the State House. Over the weekend, Nutting also revoked Wintle's electronic badge privileges. Nutting's spokesman said he didn't have any additional comment Monday.