Dale Thistle is shown in this April 2011 file photo. Credit: John Clarke Russ / BDN

The jury trial of a well known, former Newport lawyer accused of stealing a $260,000 settlement from a client’s estate will begin Wednesday at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor.

The pandemic-delayed trial of Dale Thistle, 74, of Quebec City, Quebec, will start nearly three years after he was indicted for the theft that allegedly happened in mid-2012.

The money Thistle is accused of stealing was a wrongful death settlement meant for the estate of Gilman Friend, who died in December 2010 at the age of 82 as the result of a fall at his Newport home, according to his son, Dana Friend, 62, of Carrabassett Valley.

The widow, Donna Friend, hired Thistle to sue Sebasticook Valley Hospital’s ambulance service for wrongful death, and Thistle negotiated the settlement.

It turned out, however, that Donna Friend was not entitled to the money because she and Gilman Friend had divorced before his death but continued living together, according to Dana Friend.

Thistle should have turned the settlement money over to Gilman Friend’s estate, according to the Maine Attorney General’s office, which is prosecuting the case.

Thistle’s attorney, Will Ashe of Ellsworth, said in 2019 that a traumatic brain injury Thistle suffered in a Nov. 27, 2011, car crash — but which wasn’t diagnosed immediately — impaired his judgment.

Thistle has pleaded not guilty to one count of theft by misapplication, a Class B crime due to the amount of money involved. He remains free on $1,000 cash bail but is not allowed to return to Canada.

Thistle was a well known, general practice attorney who worked in several areas of the law, including criminal and civil litigation. He defended a  former Newburgh town clerk convicted of embezzling $200,000 from town coffers and represented clients in at least half a dozen federal lawsuits alleging illegal strip searches at county jails.

Thistle has not practiced law in Maine since June 2014, when he was suspended by the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar due to a disability following the 2011 car crash.

His symptoms worsened over time after the crash until he was unable to practice, Thistle told the Waterville Morning Sentinel.

Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin, the prosecutor, and Ashe declined to comment on the case Monday, the day before jury selection was to begin. It is the practice of the attorney general’s office not to comment on pending cases.

The case is expected to go to the jury on Friday.

If convicted of theft, Thistle faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. He also could be ordered to pay restitution to Gilman Friend’s heirs.