February 17, 2018
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Ex-sheriff avoids felony threat charge

(Washington County Sheriff Joseph Tibbetts ) (R) House District 33 (BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY JOHN CLARKE RUSS)
By Sharon Kiley Mack, BDN Staff

MACHIAS, Maine — A former Washington County sheriff pleaded guilty in Washington County Superior Court on Monday to a weapons charge.

Joseph Tibbetts, 63, of Columbia, who also is a retired Maine state trooper, avoided a felony charge of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and instead pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of threatening display of a dangerous weapon.

The charge resulted from an altercation between Tibbetts and a family of two adults and two children last August.

In an interview with the Bangor Daily News a few days after the incident last summer, Melina Church and her partner, Kevin Merritt, said they and Church’s two children were driving in the barrens near Columbia looking for bears.

Church said Tibbetts began following them and when they drove into a dead-end road, Tibbetts blocked their vehicle and pointed a gun at the family. He threatened to shoot them, according to Church, but eventually let them drive away.

According to court documents, Tibbetts told police he did have a weapon, but did not raise it.

Tibbetts reportedly was working a security detail on blueberry land for the private landowner to protect the crop from poachers.

According to court documents, Tibbetts pleaded guilty to the reduced charge Monday and was allowed to defer his sentence for a year.

He will remain free on bail during that time, must not carry a concealed weapon, and must perform 120 hours of community service. He also must avoid all contact with the family involved in the incident.

At the end of one year Tibbetts may withdraw his guilty plea and enter a plea of no contest.

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