Duo sentenced for torching boat

Posted Feb. 05, 2010, at 7:34 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:47 a.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — Two Schoodic area men were sentenced Friday in Hancock County Superior Court for their roles in destroying another man’s boat by setting it on fire as it was tied up in a local harbor.

Bradley D. Wilkinson, 40, of Winter Harbor and Avery A. Scott, 39, of Gouldsboro each had pleaded guilty to a charge of arson in connection with the Sept. 3, 2008, fire and explosion that destroyed the fishing vessel 1st Run.

On Friday, each received an overall sentence of six years in prison with all but 12 months suspended, meaning each will serve a year behind bars for the felony conviction. Each man also was ordered to pay $36,000 in restitution for the loss of the 25-foot boat and to serve four years of probation upon their release.

The two men had been drinking on the night they decided to row out to the boat, which was moored in Bunker’s Harbor, according to court documents. They suspected the boat’s owner, another fisherman, of having tampered with other people’s fishing gear and sought retribution by setting his boat on fire, investigators have in-dicated.

Carletta Bassano, the prosecutor in the case, said Friday that Scott climbed onto the boat with a gas can and doused it with gasoline while Wilkinson stayed in the rowboat. When Scott lit the gasoline, the flame ignited gasoline fumes in an explosion that overturned the rowboat and blew Scott off the lobster boat and into the water.

Nearby residents noticed the explosion and reported the fire to local police and fire departments. Responding law enforcement officers found Wilkinson a short time later, soaking wet and walking down a nearby road. Scott turned himself in the next day and ended up being treated at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor for burns.

The man whose boat was destroyed addressed the men at Friday’s sentencing. He placed most of the blame for the incident on Scott, who he said had his family living in a state of fear.

“I have to keep loaded guns around the house because [my wife] is so scared,” the man said, stifling tears as he recounted his feud with Scott. “All of our problems are caused by you, Scotty. You need to be locked up for a long time.”

The sentence of keeping Scott behind bars for 12 months, he added, was “a slap on the wrist.”

Two of Scott’s friends, his stepfather and his mother addressed the court, asking for leniency. Scott, they said, has been a supportive member of the community who made a bad decision because of alcohol.

“I know he deeply regrets what he’s done,” said friend Craig Walsh. “The world’s a better place with him outside [prison rather] than inside.”

Scott declined to address the court, but Wilkinson stood and apologized to the boat owner.

“I just want to say that I’m sorry,” Wilkinson said. “I’ll be ashamed of it for the rest of my life.”

Wilkinson also was sentenced Friday to a concurrent year in prison on a charge of possession of firearms by a prohibited person. As a result of the arson investigation, police found and confiscated four firearms from Wilkinson, who has a prior felony conviction for operating a motor vehicle after revocation, according to Bas-sano.

Justice Kevin Cuddy told the men that, regardless of whether they were drunk or whether anyone had tampered with anyone else’s fishing gear, violently destroying someone else’s property is not justifiable behavior.

“An arson crime is a serious crime,” the judge said. “The reality is when you blow up somebody’s boat, that is about as serious as it gets.”

Bassano said after the proceeding that she supported the sentences imposed by Cuddy.

“I think it’s appropriate,” she said.

Wilkinson’s attorney, Eric Columber of Ellsworth, after Friday’s sentencing characterized the incident as “an unfortunate, aberrant event” for his client. He said Wilkinson already had been in jail for violating his bail and has completed an alcohol dependency recovery program while behind bars.

“His problem is substance abuse,” Columber said. “If he can keep that demon under control, he’ll be able to stay out of jail [after he is released].”

An attempt to contact Scott’s defense attorney, Martha Harris of Bangor, after the sentencing was unsuccessful.

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