By Dave Sherwood
BOWDOINHAM, Maine (Reuters) - The father of a 4-year-old who brought a loaded handgun to day care in Maine has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor reckless conduct, claiming the incident was unintentional.
The man, 31-year old Adam Keene, of Madison, placed the loaded, semi-automatic .380 caliber pistol in his son's day care bag when bringing it into his house and then forgot he had done so, said Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney.
The gun, which Keene legally owned, had a round in the chamber and the safety activated.
The gun was later discovered by an employee of the child's preschool day care in the rural central Maine community of Hallowell, near the state's capital of Augusta.
Maloney said she chose not to pursue felony charges because she believed the incident was an accident. She said in a phone interview that the state had extended a plea offer to Keene, who has not yet responded to it.
"If I thought that he'd intended to have the gun go to day care, this would be a very different case," said Maloney. "But I'm optimistic we'll be able to come to some common ground."
She said the victims were the worried parents of other children attending the day care.
Keene's attorney did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.
Day care owner Elizabeth Rollins said an employee at her home day care in Hallowell had discovered the gun, and that her husband had quickly removed it from the premises.
"We were in denial," said Rollins. "We wanted to believe it was a toy gun. But it was real."
She said the nearly four months since the incident occurred in April have been stressful, but a learning experience for her and hopefully, other day care owners.
"I've put a lot of time into talking to parents about the incident, and making sure that my kids, and theirs, are protected," she said. "We'll be happy for some closure."
(Editing by Scott Malone and Lisa Von Ahn)