Dozens of Knox County sheriff campaign signs belonging to Republican candidate Alfred Ockenfels were plastered overnight Monday with “child molester” stickers put over the word “sheriff.”
Maine State Police are investigating the political sign tampering as criminal mischief, Trooper Terry Michaud said Tuesday, noting he is following several leads. Criminal mischief is a Class D misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail and up to a $2,000 fine, he said.
Sign tampering also is a civil offense, which carries a fine of up to $250 per sign, according to local police.
Early Tuesday morning, Craig Cooley, an administrative assistant for Rockport Police Department, found three of the defaced signs at the intersection of Route 1 and Old County Road. He soon learned Knox County Sheriff’s Deputy Justin Cook had removed a few similar signs in other parts of the county. The printed signs on sticky-backed paper appear to be computer-generated with a font color of red or light blue.
By midday, signs were plucked from Rockland, Thomaston, Union, Rockport and Appleton, and Michaud was headed to Friendship to check out another reported sign tampering. Ockenfels estimated three dozen signs had been located by 2 p.m. He and his wife, Betsy, collected a handful of signs, too.
“It’s pretty despicable,” Ockenfels said at the Rockport police station. “Obviously, someone is trying to derail my candidacy.”
Ockenfels, who defeated incumbent Sheriff Daniel Davey in the June primary, is running in the Nov. 7 election against Democrat Donna Dennison, a sheriff’s detective, and independent Todd Butler, who is chief deputy of the sheriff’s office. Ockenfels, 61, of Rockport, retired in March 2005 after 26 years with the Rockland Police Department, 16 as chief.
“It’s unfortunate sheriff’s politics have digressed to this point,” Ockenfels said.
When asked who might have done this, Ockenfels said, “It’s a campaign sign. You can draw your own conclusions.
“It’s disgusting and vile,” Ockenfels said. “My supporters and family are outraged. It’s pretty nasty stuff.
“I think it was calculated,” Ockenfels said, because it is too late to have more signs printed and put out.
In June, a Washington County Sheriff’s Department deputy was suspended without pay for allegedly tossing campaign signs of a political opponent into the Narraguagus River on June 22, after the primary election. Jeff Bishop of Cherryfield was running against two opponents for sheriff. He has entered a not guilty plea in Machias District Court.
In 2002, a game warden who was caught on tape taking up a political sign belonging to the opponent of Michael Povich, the district attorney, received an internal one-day suspension.
Several people Tuesday said some of district attorney candidate Joe Baiungo’s political signs, with a huge photo of the Belfast lawyer, have been marked up with mustaches and beards.
Trooper Michaud recalled George Bush campaign signs being repainted and political signs being run over by vehicles, but no political sign tampering “to this degree,” he said.
The signs are being sent to the state crime laboratory in Augusta for a “rush order” on processing for fingerprints, Michaud said.
Anyone with information about the sign tampering is asked to contact state police at (800) 452-4664 or 354-2523.