Penobscot County Deputy District Attorney Michael Roberts said Tuesday his office will not prosecute University of Maine hockey players Shawn Mansoff and Matt Oliver for criminal threatening.
Police had alleged the two were involved in a phone message that threatened to kill a UMaine football player.
UMaine junior goalie Bryan Masotta, who is white, allegedly left a phone message on Dec. 14 filled with expressions of racial hatred and threats to kill Dwayne Wilmot, who is black. UMaine police said on Dec. 19 the two other callers in the background of the two-minute message were believed to be Mansoff and Oliver.
Following the incident, the three hockey players were suspended indefinitely from the team by coach Shawn Walsh.
According to their lawyers, Mansoff and Oliver were also suspended from school for a year by Bill Kennedy, UMaine director of judicial affairs. Due to the Buckley Amendment, which protects a student’s privacy, the university would not confirm whether Masotta has also been suspended for a year and his lawyer would not confirm it.
Walsh and Kennedy would not comment on the District Attorney’s decision to drop the criminal threatening charges against Mansoff and Oliver.
University spokesman Joe Carr said Mansoff and Oliver will still face a hearing to determine if they violated UMaine’s Student Conduct Code and whether the suspension should remain.
“When any students are involved in a situation like this, there’s no automatic or necessary connection between the decision made by the legal system and the university’s judicial affairs officer,” Carr said. “The level of proof in a court revolves around proving them guilty without reasonable doubt. The judicial affairs office standard deals with the preponderence of evidence. Was it more likely than not [that the students were guilty]?”
Roberts said his office will not pursue the charges because the comments made by the background voices were not threats, unlike Masotta’s. He said it was not relevant whether Mansoff or Oliver were involved in the phone message.
“It is not important in determining whose voices,” Roberts said. “The comments were not threats. In the context, Mr. Wilmot may have, I’m sure he found the entire thing threatening. I have to look at what each individual said.”
Masotta, who admitted to making the threats, will appear in 3rd District Court in Bangor Friday. He is also being investigated by the Attorney General’s office which has filed a complaint against him under the Maine Civil Rights Act.
According to Maine law, a person is guilty of criminal threatening if they intentionally or knowingly place another person in fear of imminent bodily injury. A person found guilty of the Class D crime can face prison time for any period of less than a year and fines up to $2,000.
Roberts said the investigation has been ongoing since the threats were made on Dec. 14 and, after analyzing the three voices on the message and the context of the comments, it was clear the main voice was Masotta’s and there was evidence that the other two voices were Mansoff’s and Oliver’s.
“Criminally, it doesn’t matter whether it was Mathew Oliver or someone else,” Roberts said. “We are aware of witnesses who have heard the tape and verify and will assert the voices are of Oliver and Mansoff. Others are not sure.”
However, attorney Dan Pileggi who is representing Oliver said he believes neither Oliver or Mansoff will be prosecuted because there is no evidence to show his client was at Masotta’s house at the time of the call. Oliver and Masotta live together.
“Basically, it is finally coming out that the university jumped the gun in suggesting Shawn Mansoff and Matt Oliver were part of this,” Pileggi said. “The realistic conclusion was that [Roberts] couldn’t prove the case. Matt Oliver didn’t participate. He didn’t threaten [Wilmot]. He wasn’t a part of it.”
Mansoff’s lawyers Joe Ferris and Larry Willey said the evidence they gave Roberts showed Mansoff was not at Masotta’s the night of the call. Willey said they have statements from witnesses who say Mansoff was elsewhere when the call was made.
A statement by UMaine student Jessica Richardson that Willey and Ferris released to media states that she was with Mansoff at Masotta’s early in the morning on Dec. 14. Richardson said after she left Masotta’s apartment with Mansoff at 5:30 a.m., she separated from him at Geddy’s Pub on Park Street in Orono several minutes later, and arrived home between 5:45 and 5:55.
UMaine sophomore forward Cory Larose said in an interview with the Victor Kraft Private Investigator firm that he had just gotten into bed and was falling asleep at his house on Crosby Street when Mansoff returned home. In the interview, Larose said he did not look at the clock and “can not say with certainty” but thought it was about 6 a.m. when Mansoff arrived.
Assistant Attorney General Stephen Wessler said an investigation showed the message was left at 6 a.m. on Dec. 14.
Wessler’s office is investigating the incident because it is is bringing a civil rights case against Masotta for allegedly leaving the message that contained racial slurs and threats to kill Wilmot.
Peliggi said Mansoff and Oliver will appeal their suspension to the university conduct committee sometime in the next few weeks.
“There’s a lot at stake, particularly for the students involved in a situation like this,” Carr said. “The student needs to know if he and she can attend classes. It’s a matter of a student’s life.”
Pileggi said Oliver will not comment until after the university hearing. Ferris and Willey would not comment on the university hearing because it is still pending.