A Hancock man is facing a civil charge of committing a traffic violation that resulted in death but will not face a manslaughter charge in a case stemming from a summer 2021 incident, according to the local district attorney.

David Lentz, 22, pleaded innocent Thursday to criminal charges of driving to endanger and reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon, and a denial to the civil charge. He was indicted on criminal charges last month.

Lentz isn’t being charged criminally with causing the death of Evan Soukup last summer though, Hancock County District Attorney Matthew Foster said Monday. Soukup died July 7 after falling off the back of a 1999 Jeep Wrangler that Lentz was driving.

Lentz was driving the Jeep on Bayside Road in Ellsworth at around 3:30 a.m. on July 6, 2021, while Soukup, 22, was hanging on the back of the vehicle after stealing a large road sign, Foster said. Soukup had THC in his system at the time of the incident, which indicates he recently had used marijuana, he said.

“His grip slipped and he fell and died,” Foster said. “We didn’t charge Lentz with manslaughter because it really was Soukup’s fault.”

Soukup died the following day at a Bangor hospital, according to his obituary.

Foster said his office decided to pursue the civil charge against Lentz instead “because he should have known better than to allow a passenger to ride in the vehicle without safety restraints.” If Lentz is found guilty of the civil violation, Foster said, the state can suspend Lentz’s driver’s license for four years.

John Steed, Lentz’s attorney, said the two men worked on the same lobster boat and were on their way to work when the incident occurred.

“It’s a tragedy,” Steed said. “They were good friends and my client is heartbroken over what happened.”

Both the charges of driving to endanger and reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon are considered Class C felonies in Maine. With a conviction, each Class C charge can result in a sentence of up to five years in prison and fines of up to $5,000.

Correction: An earlier version misstated what substance Soukup had in his system due to an error by the Hancock County District Attorney’s Office. It was THC.

Avatar photo

Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....