An aggravated assault charge filed against University of Maine freshman hockey player Nick Payson resulting from an altercation at a party in January has been dropped and Payson will be reinstated to the hockey team on Monday.
Payson had been scheduled to appear at Penobscot County Superior Court on March 14.
In a letter to Payson from David Fiacco, the director of Community Standards, Rights and Responsibilities for the university, Fiacco wrote that a thorough investigation exonerated him.
He wrote, “I found insufficient information to conclude that any violation of the Student Conduct Code occurred. Understand that no further action will be taken in this manner at this time.”
He also wrote, “I have interviewed several individuals who witnessed this event. It appears that you were responding to a threat initiated by [the alleged victim].
“Several witnesses heard [the alleged victim] talk about fighting you and behaving in an agitated and aggressive manner. After [the alleged victim’s] aggressive approach, you pushed him away. He came at you again and you pushed him to the ground. At this point, several people became involved. All witnesses interviewed indicate that you threw no punches, but were responding to the initial aggression in a reasonable and proportionate manner. In fact, it appears you exercised considerable restraint given [the alleged victim’s] behavior.
“[The alleged victim] punched a hole in the wall and threw a bottle at one of the attendees as he exited the apartment,” concluded Fiacco.
Payson, a winger, hadn’t appeared in any games this season because Maine coach Tim Whitehead decided to red-shirt him.
Student-athletes are allowed five years in which to complete four years of eligibility so Payson will have four years of eligibility beginning next fall.
He practiced with the team until he was suspended indefinitely after the charge was filed.
Payson, a Veazie native, starred in football and hockey at Bangor High School before deciding to pass up his senior year to play for the Portland Junior Pirates. He spent two seasons with the Junior Pirates before coming to Maine this past fall.
He led Class A in scoring his junior year at Bangor High with 43 goals and 28 assists in 23 games.
Last season he notched 23 goals and 17 assists in 40 games for the Junior Pirates.
Payson said the whole ordeal was “very hard” on him and his family and he learned a valuable lesson.
“I have to be smarter about the choices I make. You’re accountable for your actions,” said Payson, who added that in hindsight he should have left the party where the incident occurred “a little sooner.”
He said he needs to be more selective about the people he associates with and “the places I hang out.”
The 20-year-old Payson is “really excited” about returning to the program and is grateful for the opportunity to pursue a dream he has had since he first put on a pair of skates.
Whitehead said he is pleased to have Payson back.
“I look forward to working with him this spring and next season,” said Whitehead.