A protester who was arrested last year outside Leonard Leo’s summer home on Mount Desert Island has reached a settlement with the two police officers who arrested him.
Eli Durand-McDonnell, 24, was arrested in July 2022 on a charge of disorderly conduct during protests outside Leo’s home over Leo’s efforts to have the U.S. Supreme Court overturn federal protections that made abortion legal.
That misdemeanor charge later was dismissed by Hancock County District Attorney Robert Granger, who said that the case was a low priority for his office and that prosecutors need to “tread very carefully” when considering whether protected political speech crosses the line into a breach of the peace.
Two months later, Durand-McDonnell sued the police officers who arrested him in federal court, alleging that they violated his rights to free speech and arrested him under false pretenses.
A settlement conference in the case was held Wednesday in federal court in Bangor. During the conference, attorneys representing Durand-McDonnell and police officers Kevin Edgecomb and Nathan Formby indicated that they had agreed to settle the case, according to information posted in an online database of federal court cases.
The magistrate judge overseeing the conference, John C. Nivison, on Wednesday ordered the parties to complete the settlement of the case and to file a stipulation of dismissal with the court within the next 30 days.
Details about the preliminary settlement agreement were not available Thursday. Durand-McDonnell’s attorney, Matthew Morgan of Augusta, did not respond to an email or voicemail seeking comment.
Kasia Park, the Portland attorney representing the police officers, verified there was a settlement agreement but declined to provide any details.
“The parties reached a settlement,” she said. “All parties believe it was in their best interests to resolve this case without protracted litigation.”
Prior to the criminal charge being dismissed, Morgan argued that Leo had urged police to arrest Durand-McDonnell for yelling curse words at Leo earlier in the day, as Leo and his family walked down Main Street in the village of Northeast Harbor.
Durand-McDonnell’s outburst was protected political speech but, even if it warranted a disorderly conduct charge, police are not allowed to make such an arrest if the exchange in question is committed outside of their presence, Morgan argued. He also said the ulterior motive of the arrest was not so much about the insult but to impose bail conditions requiring Durand-McDonnell to stay away from Leo and his summer home.
Leo, a summer resident of Northeast Harbor in the town of Mount Desert, is co-chair of the conservative Federalist Society, which has sought to have anti-abortion conservative judges appointed to the Supreme Court.
Protests outside Leo’s summer home intensified in July 2022, after the court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that had established a women’s right to terminate a pregnancy.
Around the same time the disorderly conduct charge against Durand-McDonnell was dismissed, Leo came under fire nationally for directing nearly $100,000 in secret payments to Ginni Thomas, wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, for supposed consulting work, according to The Washington Post.
That same month, Politico reported that Leo leveraged his work with The Federalist Society — a nonprofit whose tax status prohibits it from political advocacy — to obtain a $1.6 billion gift for his “dark money network” that has helped to get conservative, anti-abortion justices appointed to the Supreme Court.