Steuben landowner wins timber theft case against Down East foresters

By Sharon Kiley Mack, BDN Staff
Posted Dec. 23, 2010, at 4:46 p.m.

MACHIAS, Maine — For the second time this year, a Steuben landowner has been awarded $67,000 in court-ordered restitution from a licensed forester who took almost 18 acres of timber illegally from her property.

David Crane, 61, of Lamoine pleaded guilty this week in Washington County District Court to a single count of failure to mark property lines clearly and a single count of unlawful cutting of trees on property in Steuben owned by Jo Woodworth, now of Sarasota, Fla.

Judge John Romei dismissed 24 other counts of timber theft against Crane, involving other properties and owners throughout Hancock and Washington counties, and continued 24 additional cases until Feb. 23.

In all, 51 timber complaints were filed against Crane between 2006 and 2010, according to documents on file at Washington County court.

In the Steuben case, Crane was ordered to pay $300 a month to Woodworth for total damages of more than $67,000. In addition, he was fined $1,000 for the property line violation.

In May 2010, Woodworth won a judgment against Paul Gaddis of East Machias, also for $67,000. That month, Gad-dis pleaded guilty to civil charges of unlawful cutting of trees and failing to mark property lines clearly. Gaddis ac-tually marked the area to be cut, while Crane did the cutting, according to court records.

In a telephone interview from her Florida home this week, Woodworth said she had planned to build a cabin and retire on the property, a forested 33-acre lot that had never been harvested. But in 2008, just a few months before she was to start construction, Maine Forest Ranger Courtney Hammond notified her that a massive timber trespass had occurred. Woodworth estimated that more than $52,000 worth of timber had been stolen off her land and another $23,184 in environmental damage had been done to streams and property.

“My dream has been stolen by the hands of people in Maine who should be avoiding any type of destruction to their beautiful lands, lakes and streams,” Woodworth told the judge during Monday’s hearing against Crane.

She also said that the two years of court delays and nine continuances that Crane obtained in the case seriously affected her health.

“I am not Mr. Crane’s first victim,” Woodworth told Romei. “And unless the courts do something, I will not be the last one. He is a menace to the sustainable forests of the state of Maine. If the courts can’t keep him out of the forest, then at least make him responsible.”

Woodworth originally asked for $90,877 in restitution.

After the court hearing, Woodworth said she would pursue civil lawsuits against both Crane and Gaddis. “That they both pleaded guilty ensures that I will be successful in my civil suits,” she said.

“It’s not the money,” Woodworth said after the court proceeding. “It’s about keeping these people out of the woods.”

Woodworth was particularly critical of Romei, saying he refused to let her read her entire victim impact state-ment. “He stopped me halfway through and then said all I could talk about was financial loss,” she said. She also said she was disappointed that she was not awarded the full value of damages.

Woodworth, who grew up in Gouldsboro, has flown to Maine from Florida three times to attend court hearings on the timber case and said she will return when the civil cases are scheduled next year.

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/12/23/news/steuben-landowner-wins-timber-theft-case-against-down-east-foresters/ printed on December 26, 2014