KEENE, N.H. -- A Hinsdale man known to many for his public demonstrations around the two bridges linking his town to Vermont accepted a plea deal in 8th Circuit Court District Division in Keene.
Michael J. Mulligan, 60, agreed on Wednesday, Feb. 26, to pay a $1,000 fine, plus a $240 penalty assessment, if he cannot pay $1,253.76 in restitutions within a year for damage he caused to the portion of the Charles Dana Bridge designated for pedestrians. In exchange for pleading guilty to one misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief, he must also avoid going within 100 feet of that structure or the Anna Hunt Marsh bridge, except for routine travel without stopping, or risk the fine and penalty assessment.
He was originally charged with reckless conduct, disorderly conduct, and two counts of criminal mischief. Reckless conduct is a felony. He also received a ticket for littering.
According to documents filed by Hinsdale Patrolman Joshua Murray, the arresting officer, Mulligan caused damage to the walkway portion of the bridge by using a crowbar to remove several wooden boards from it, creating a hazard for pedestrians, on July 31, 2013. Murray said Mulligan littered by leaving a white poster board sign reading "NEED NEW BRIDGE" on public property.
"I reached a plea agreement but I don't think justice was done," Mulligan told the Reformer, adding that he did not get enough time in court to discuss the condition of the bridges. He said, however, he made a statement and the judge recognized the problems with maintaining infrastructure in the United States.
Mulligan told the Reformer he removed the boards from the bridge in order to send a message and get the deterioration noticed.
"When I was pulling up them boards, a witness walked by and said, 'What are you doing?' and I said, 'I'm fixing the bridge,'" Mulligan recalled. "And within 12 hours those boards were renailed to the bridge."
He mentioned he considers that witness to be a hero.
After being arrested, Mulligan was released on $5,000 personal recognizance.
Mulligan's arrest occurred one day after he appeared at a public meeting -- hosted by the Federal Highway Administration, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation and the Vermont Agency of Transportation in the Brattleboro Union High School Multipurpose Room -- held to gauge local support for a project to rehabilitate the Charles Dana and Anna Hunt Marsh bridges and construct a new one, which would stretch over the nearby railroad tracks in Brattleboro and touch down near the stop light at the former Walmart location.
Mulligan, who brought with him pieces of rust he had chipped off the bridges, said he feels the environmental assessment contained gross inaccuracies and said he fears the bridges are in danger of collapsing. He said the assessment overestimates "by many magnitudes" the bridge's integrity, even though those who put together the assessment consider it "functionally obsolete."
Mulligan, wearing a homemade halo, also referenced movies in which an angel lurks near a bridge before it collapses and said he is that angel for the Charles Dana and Anna Hunt Marsh bridges.
He has brought pieces of the rusted bridges into the Reformer to describe what he considers dangerous deterioration.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.