AUGUSTA, Maine — An Allagash man is appealing his conviction on a number of hunting and theft violations before the state’s highest court.
Carter McBreairty, 60, was convicted during a jury trial in September 2014 of three counts of hunting under the influence, three counts of exceeding the bag limit on deer, three counts of having a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, night hunting, failure to register a deer and over limit on brook trout.
He was sentenced to 364 days in jail with all but 30 days suspended, with 60 days of 24-hour home confinement, and was ordered to pay fines in excess of $10,300.
McBreairty’s attorney, Allan Harding of Presque Isle, argued before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday that his client should be acquitted of several charges against him and a new trial held on the remaining counts because the state failed to introduce evidence showing the level of his client’s intoxication while hunting and deprived the defendant of a fair trial.
Aroostook County Assistant District Attorney James Mitchell denied those charges in court briefs and District Attorney Todd Collins argued the case before the justices Thursday.
McBreairty was among three men who were convicted on a number of hunting and theft violations following a year-and-a-half-long undercover investigation conducted in 2012-2013 by a Maine Warden Services investigator.
Warden Investigator William Livezey testified for the prosecution at trial about how he posed as a Pennsylvania outdoor sportsman and accompanied Carter McBreairty to the Allagash area 9 separate times from June 2012 through December 2013.
While hunting in November 2012, Livezey testified that McBreairty had him hide in the back of a vehicle to avoid paying a fee to hunt on gated land owned by a paper company. During that hunt, a deer was killed by McBreairty, and his girlfriend registered the deer as having been killed by her.
In July 2013, the warden observed McBreairty catch 11 brook trout, 6 over limit, according to court documents. In October 2013, again after failing to pay the fee for two people while hunting on gated land and hunting while drinking, McBreairty was heavily intoxicated while handling firearms, the documents state.
“While showing some people they met his shotgun, he touched it off right next to the warden’s ear,” Assistant District Attorney Mitchell wrote in his court briefs.
On a hunting trip on Dec. 7, 2013, McBreairty was so intoxicated prior to the hunt that he had a hard time getting dressed and putting on his shoes, according to the court documents. He drove a vehicle even though the warden begged him to let him drive.
Frequently during these trips, the warden would place McBreairty’s shotgun on safety or position himself in the backseat behind him so that he could get the gun away from him, according to the court briefs. At one point, a member of the hunting party removed bullets from his gun when McBreairty was not looking because he was so intoxicated that he was shooting wildly at birds in the air.
Harding argued Thursday before the supreme court justices that the jury relied on the warden’s testimony about his client’s level of intoxication regarding the Dec. 7, 2013 hunt, even though, according to the attorney, there was a delay between when the defendant woke up intoxicated, ate breakfast and then went out hunting.
“The mere fact that one is intoxicated at one part of the day does not mean that after coffee, after breakfast, that they are intoxicated later,” Harding told the court.
In returning guilty verdicts on the theft of services charges, the jury also relied solely on the testimony of the warden, who did not hear the conversation between McBreairty and the gatekeeper on duty because he was hiding in the back of the vehicle.
District Attorney Collins told the justices that hunting under the influence charges were lodged because alcohol affects you when you are hunting, no matter the degree of intoxication. He said that the proof that the trial was fair was illustrated by the jury’s verdict, which was split.
During Thursday’s hearing, Chief Justice Leigh I. Saufley noted that the investigation and prosecution of this case has taken several years, that the crimes did not pose a lot of risk to the public and that the cost to the taxpayers was a significant amount of money. She asked Collins if he felt the case was a good use of taxpayer dollars.
“I believe I read in a report that a moose in Maine is worth $10,000 in revenues,” Collins said. “What is Maine without our natural resources, ‘the wildness of Maine,’ as Thoreau said. We need to protect our natural resources, and if we lose them, Maine loses in the long run.”
There is no timetable under which the justices must issue a decision.