Governor & AG to Commission: “All that we ask is that you follow the facts, wherever they may lead, and that you do so in an independent and objective manner, biased by no one and guided only by the pursuit of truth.”
Governor Janet Mills and Attorney General Aaron Frey today formally established the Independent Commission to Investigate the Facts of the Tragedy in Lewiston.
The charge of the Independent Commission, established through an Executive Order signed by the Governor today, is to determine the facts of the October 25th shootings in Lewiston, including the months preceding the shootings and the police response to them.
The Governor and the Attorney General have appointed seven experts with extensive legal, investigative, and mental health backgrounds to serve on the Independent Commission. These experts include:
- The Honorable Daniel E. Wathen, Chair: Former Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court;
- Dr. Debra Baeder, Ph.D: Former Chief Forensic Psychologist for the State of Maine;
- George (Toby) Dilworth: Former Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Maine and current Managing Director, Drummond Woodsum;
- The Honorable Ellen Gorman: Former Associate Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court;
- The Honorable Geoffrey Rushlau: Former Maine District Court Judge and former District Attorney for Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox, and Waldo Counties;
- Dr. Anthony Ng, MD: Board-certified psychiatrist and medical director of Community Services for Northern Light Acadia Hospital
- Paula Silsby: Former United States Attorney for the District of Maine;
In a joint letter to the members of the Independent Commission (PDF) released today, the Governor and the Attorney General said they selected them because “each of you brings a wealth of personal and professional legal, behavioral, investigatory, or other experiences that will help bring to light these facts for all to know and understand”, adding that each member is “highly respected for your abilities, your expertise, your impartiality, your integrity, and your fair-mindedness.”
“These qualities, and your experiences, will be fundamental to the discharge of the Independent Commission’s duties,” the Governor and Attorney General wrote.
The Governor and the Attorney General also made clear in their letter that the Independent Commission must conduct itself in an independent and objective manner guided only by the pursuit of the facts.
“In order to exercise your independence as a Commission, you should determine the full and complete scope of your work, and you should ask any question necessary of any person that is relevant to your charge in gathering the facts. All that we ask is that you follow the facts, wherever they may lead, and that you do so in an independent and objective manner, biased by no one and guided only by the pursuit of truth,” wrote Governor Mills and Attorney General Frey in their letter to the Independent Commission.
“As we have said, the complete facts and circumstances – including any failures or omissions – must be brought to light and known by all. The families of the victims, those who were injured, and the people of Maine and the nation deserve nothing less,” continued Governor Mills and Attorney General Frey.
In their letter, the Governor and Attorney General urged the Commission to conduct its work in public to the greatest extent possible, with a sense of urgency, guided by the pursuit of facts, and to issue a formal public report detailing their findings upon the conclusion of their investigation.
The Independent Commission will be funded through the Office of the Attorney General and will have staff, with the full scope of needed resources and any additional investigatory powers to be determined and requested by the Independent Commission itself.
Additional background on Members of the Independent Commission is as follows:
The Honorable Daniel E. Wathen, Commission Chair – Former Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, Wathen served as a member of Maine’s judiciary for more than twenty-five years. Wathen was first appointed to the Maine Superior Court by Governor Longley (I) in 1977 and served for four years before his appointment to Maine’s highest court by Governor Brennan (D) in 1981. Wathen was elevated to Chief Justice by Governor McKernan (R) in 1992 and served in that role until his retirement in 2001. Since 1990, Wathen has served as the Court Master to oversee the mental health consent decree.
“I am deeply honored and humbled by the responsibility that Governor Mills and Attorney General Aaron Frey have bestowed on me and the other members of the Independent Commission. It is the most important inquiry for truth that I have ever received,” said former Maine Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Daniel E. Wathen, Chairman of the Independent Commission. “I accept it as a responsibility to the victims, those directly involved in this tragedy, and all of the people of Maine, and I pledge that we will follow the facts, wherever they may lead.”
Dr. Debra Baeder, Ph.D – Certified in forensic psychology by the American Board of Professional Psychology, Baedar served as Chief Forensic Psychologist for the State Forensic Service in Maine and then as the Director of Clinical Services for the Maine Office of Behavioral Health for 23 years. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Psychology and her expertise includes evaluations of adult pre-trial defendants on issues of competence and criminal responsibility as well as evaluations of juveniles on matters pertaining to dispositional recommendations, risk assessments, competence, and waiver to criminal court. She has served on task forces, study groups, and training panels focused on domestic homicides, police use of deadly force, juvenile justice, outpatient commitment, and emergency involuntary hospitalization.
“I am honored to bring my mental health expertise to bear on this Independent Commission as we examine facts and circumstances preceding and surrounding the tragic shootings in Lewiston,” said Dr. Baeder. “The work of the Independent Commission must provide answers to the families of the victims of this tragedy through a deliberate, careful look at what happened before, during, and after the shootings – an endeavor to which I am fully committed.”
George (Toby) Dilworth – Dilworth is a former Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Maine, serving from 1991 to 2005. Drawing on more than 30 years of trial work and Federal government experience, Dilworth currently represents individuals and businesses in complex criminal and civil litigation and investigations. He is also the managing director of Drummond Woodsum, which is based in Portland.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Independent Commission to find answers to the critical questions arising from the tragedy in Lewiston,” said Dilworth. “It is a responsibility we owe to the families of those who lost loved ones, those who were injured, and all the people of Maine.”
The Honorable Ellen Gorman – A former Associate Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, Gorman is an accomplished jurist who was appointed to the Maine District Court by Governor John McKernan (R) in 1989, to the Maine Superior Court by Governor Angus King (I) in 2000, to the Supreme Judicial Court by Governor John Baldacci (D) in 2007, and reappointed by Governor Paul LePage (R) in 2015. Gorman served as Associate Justice on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court for 15 years until her retirement in 2022 and previously served as Commissioner for the Workers’ Compensation Commission and as an attorney in private practice.
“I am honored to serve as a member of the Independent Commission and look forward to starting this vital and important task on behalf of the people of Lewiston and the people of Maine,” said Gorman. “I am committed to pursuing the facts, wherever they may lead.”
Dr. Anthony Ng, MD – Dr. Ng serves as Medical Director of Community Services for Northern Light Acadia Hospital in Bangor. A board-certified psychiatrist, Dr. Ng has earned national recognition for his work to provide psychiatric expertise, care, and support to disaster affected communities, including in the aftermath of the crash of Flight 587 in New York City (2001), the Asian Tsunamis (2004), Hurricanes Rita and Katrina (2005), and several mass school shootings, including Sandy Hook Elementary School (2012). He is the past chair of the Coalition for Psychiatric Emergencies and the former president of the American Association for Emergency Psychiatry. Earlier this year, the American Psychiatric Association awarded him the 2023 Bruno Lima Award in recognition of his outstanding contributions in the care and understanding of the victims of disasters.
“As a member of the Independent Commission, I will draw on my deep experience as a psychiatrist working with communities impacted by horrific crises, including mass shootings, to determine the facts surrounding the October 25th shootings,” said Dr. Ng. “I thank Governor Mills and Attorney General Frey for the trust they have placed in me and for the opportunity to serve.”
The Honorable Geoffrey Rushlau – Rushlau was a prosecuting attorney for 37 years, and then a District Court Judge. He was an Assistant District Attorney in Androscoggin and Sagadahoc Counties from 1980 to 1993 and then served from 1993 to 2017 as District Attorney for Waldo, Knox, Lincoln and Sagadahoc Counties. During his years as District Attorney, he focused on in-service training for area police departments. He also served as the legislative representative for the Maine Prosecutors Association. In that role he testified frequently before legislative committees on bills relating to criminal law and public safety. He later became the first District Attorney to be appointed to the Board of Trustees of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. The Board’s responsibilities include the enactment of training and conduct standards for law enforcement, and imposing sanctions on officers accused of violating those standards. He served on the Board until he resigned as District Attorney in 2017 upon his confirmation as a Judge of the District Court. He retired as a judge in October of 2022, after 42 years of service in the courts of this state.
“Like all Mainers I was shocked and horrified by the two mass killings in Lewiston, and I strongly believe we all need clear answers to understand what happened and why it happened,” said Rushlau. “I am honored to participate in the careful and comprehensive assessment of what happened before, during and after the night of October 25.”
Paula Silsby – Silsby served as United States Attorney for the District of Maine from 2001 to 201o. Prior to her appointment as United States Attorney, she served as an Assistant United States Attorney handling both civil and criminal cases, including stints as Senior Litigation Counsel and Chief of the office’s Criminal Division. As a government attorney, Silsby lectured within the United States Department of Justice on the topics of workplace harassment and discrimination and served as an Equal Employment Opportunity investigator. She currently serves as Of Counsel at McCloskey, Mina, Cunniff & Frawley in Portland.
“I am honored to join the Independent Commission and am committed to the full and impartial discharge of its important duties,” said Silsby. “At this time of great sadness for the families of the victims, the citizens of Lewiston, and the entire state of Maine, determining the facts for all those impacted is paramount to our ability to move forward and heal.”