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Homeless man's conviction for discharging firearm struck

June 04, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- A homeless man who acted as his own lawyer Thursday in Washington County Circuit Court had his conviction for discharging a firearm within Hagerstown's city limits struck, and received probation before judgment.

Probation before judgment means if he successfully serves a year of probation, the conviction will not appear on his record.

James Michael Devine, 57, must also serve 50 hours of community service within 60 days, and may not live on the streets of Hagerstown or possess firearms during his probation.

Devine had faced additional charges of first-degree assault, second-degree assault and reckless endangerment, but was found not guilty of those charges earlier this week by the same jury that convicted him of the firearm charge.

Devine, who has been homeless for about 20 years, has testified in Annapolis for a state law that would make crimes against him and other homeless people considered hate crimes. He currently lives out of his van, which is parked at a farm in Washington County.

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A compromise making homelessness a protected classification was reached in April during the legislative session.

During his testimony in March, Devine said he suffered almost daily abuse while living in his van in Hagerstown and Sharpsburg. Devine said the abuse he suffers from children who throw items at his van, call him names and threaten to hurt him should be considered hate crimes, The Herald-Mail reported.

In 2006, Devine also ran against Del. John P. Donoghue in the Democratic primary for the Subdistrict 2C seat.

While speaking in court Thursday morning before he was sentenced, Devine said he had been trying to stay out of trouble.

He discharged the firearm in self-defense after several weeks of being harassed by a group of kids, Devine said Thursday in court.

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