Drunken joy ride on boat results in prison sentence

Posted Oct. 26, 2009, at 8:35 p.m.

MACHIAS, Maine — Kenneth Chandler, 20, of Beals Island, who took a drunken joy ride on a lobster boat in May 2008 and abandoned the boat in the island’s harbor allowing it to crash into four other boats, was sentenced Monday to 40 months in prison, with all but two years suspended.

He also was ordered to pay $69,777.99 in restitution for the damage to the fishing vessels.

Justice E. Allen Hunter particularly criticized Chandler for incurring charges in four separate alcohol-related crimes this summer while he was out of jail on $1,000 bail and awaiting his sentence.

“The defendant is slow to develop the insight that his evident problem is alcohol,” Hunter said. After the lobster boat incident, Hunter said, it was “mind-boggling that he would use alcohol again.”

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After sentencing Chandler, Hunter told him, “Get to it. Establish your sobriety.”

Chandler left the courtroom wearing orange pants and sweatshirt, his hands shackled to a chain around his waist.

Chandler was 18 and already had a juvenile alcohol conviction when he got drunk, drove his ATV to the island’s harbor and stole the lobster boat, according to his own attorney.

“The facts are clear,” attorney Jeffrey Davidson of East Machias told the court. “My client was drunk that night. He rode his ATV to the dock and went for a joy ride. He forgot to turn the boat off because he was so intoxicated. He made a stupid, reckless mistake.”

The boat taken by Chandler was the 31-foot Lisa Marie owned by Larry Crowley. The four other boats damaged were owned by Tim Peabody, Peter L. Beal, Tommy Beal and O.W. Look and Son. A dock also was damaged.

On May 19, 2008, a local lobster fisherman heard noises and saw the Lisa Marie heading up Moosabec Reach, between Jonesport and Beals without running lights, according to the District Attorney’s Office. He saw one man inside but told authorities he didn’t think anything of it until he heard another noise a little later and saw the Lisa Marie going in circles and ramming other boats. No one was on board at that time.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Marine Patrol were notified, and when they went on board they found an all-terrain vehicle helmet and footprints.

They contacted Crowley who said he had not given anyone permission to be on his boat. Since no one was found on the boat, authorities initially feared its operator might have gone overboard and a search was launched.

Later that same day, Chandler was arrested and charged with four counts of aggravated criminal mischief and one count of criminal mischief. He could have received up to five years in jail on each of the aggravated counts.

In February he pleaded guilty to all charges stemming from the lobster boat incident.

In court Monday, Washington County Deputy District Attorney Carletta M. Bassano said that on July 4, 2009, while free on bail and awaiting sentencing in the lobster boat incident, Chandler committed a new alcohol-related crime.

She said that during Jonesport Days, Chandler was discovered on his ATV with a 30-pack of beer under his arm. He was charged with operating while under the influence, operating after suspension, violations of conditions of release and illegal attachment. His blood alcohol level was 0.12.

Chandler has been held since then at the Washington County Jail.

Bassano called the July 4 conduct “a flamboyant violation.” She said Chandler had been given time between the first arrest and the second arrest to “step up” and he did not.

Davidson said his client had not intentionally set out to damage anything or harm anyone.

In addressing the court just before his sentencing, Chandler apologized to the court, the victims and the people involved in the sea search triggered when he abandoned the lobster boat. “I am very ashamed,” he said. “You will never see me in a courtroom again. I have a lot of amends to make to people.”

“We have behavior here that put not just Mr. Chandler at risk, but put an entire community at risk,” Hunter said, speaking of the large sea search that was launched when the abandoned lobster boat was discovered and it was feared the boat operator had fallen overboard.

The final sentence for the lobster boat incident was 40 months in prison with all but 24 months suspended, two years probation, with the condition of complete alcohol abstinence.

Chandler also was sentenced to 90 days in jail, $1,200 in fines and an 18-month license suspension for the July 4 incident, to be served concurrently with his longer sentence.

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