ROCKLAND, Maine — Even though Edwin Vance Bunker’s attorney argued that the Matinicus man poses no risk to his island community, Justice Jeffrey Hjelm refused Wednesday morning to lift the ban that is keeping him from returning to his home there.
However, the justice did modify one of his bail conditions during Bunker’s arraignment hearing at Knox County Superior Court for elevated aggravated assault.
“The defendant will be allowed back on Matinicus … for the purpose of retrieving lobster gear in the presence of the Marine Patrol,” Hjelm said. “Mr. Bunker’s access to the island should be limited.”
The charges stem from a July 20 incident on the town dock during which lobsterman Chris Young, 41, was shot in the neck while the two men argued over the cutting of lobster gear. Bunker is accused in the shooting.
Geoffrey Rushlau, district attorney for Knox and Waldo counties, said after the hearing that the judge had made the right decision.
“I believe that it’s a way of preventing further violence, which is what I think we’re all concerned about,” Rushlau said.
Bunker in the arraignment entered pleas of not guilty to two counts of elevated aggravated assault, one count of criminal threatening and one count of reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon.
During the brief hearing, defense attorney Philip Cohen of Waldoboro said that his client had never received so much as a speeding ticket before the events of July 20, and that by forbidding his return to Matinicus, the state was essentially making him live in his Owls Head home, which is just minutes away from where Young lives.
“My client has absolutely no criminal history,” Cohen said. “He has an impeccable character … and by insisting on this ban of Matinicus, the state’s actually putting him closer to Mr. Young.”
Cohen requested a compromise which would allow Bunker to return to Matinicus “during daylight hours” but that was denied by the judge.
Bunker, 68, has been free since the shooting on $125,000 bail, although he has effectively been banned from Matinicus.
Young has been recuperating from his injuries. According to a lawsuit filed with the case, Young claimed he was the victim of a coordinated attack that may leave him permanently disabled. He has said that fragments from the bullet remain embedded in an area close to his spine and cannot be removed because of the risk of further damage, leaving him with limited control of both arms and “almost total paralysis of his hands.”
Both Bunker and Young were indicted in mid-September by a Knox County grand jury on charges related to the shooting, though Bunker’s charges are more serious. The Class A crime of elevated aggravated assault is punishable by up to 40 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. The Class C crimes of criminal threatening and reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon are punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Young was indicted on the misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass for refusing to leave Bunker’s lobster boat on the morning he was shot.