ELLSWORTH, Maine — A Sorrento man with a history of criminal and animal-related complaints in Maine and Massachusetts pleaded not guilty Thursday to several criminal charges he is facing in Hancock County Superior Court.
Mark David Calcia, 44, a garbage collector and farmer who keeps pigs, chickens, goats and other animals at his property at 84 Fuller Road in Sorrento, was indicted last month on charges of criminal threatening and violating conditions of release. He entered pleas of not guilty to those charges Thursday.
The felony criminal threatening charge stems from an incident in July 2010 in which Calcia allegedly waved a handgun in the air and pointed it at a neighbor during a dispute over how he controls his animals, according to court documents. Sorrento’s animal control officer told police she felt threatened as Calcia “waved the handgun in the air” as she issued him a summons for animal trespass, the documents indicate. The summons was issued after Calcia’s goats allegedly had eaten and destroyed a neighbor’s fruit trees, police said.
“She was in fear that Marc Calcia would shoot the gun as she drove away,” police wrote in an affidavit.
The charge of violating conditions of release stems from an incident in October 2010 in which Calcia’s pigs wandered onto the same neighbor’s lawn and dug up the turf. The neighbor, who had pictures and video of the pigs trespassing on his property, had obtained a protection from harassment order against Calcia and the presence of his pigs on the neighbor’s property violated that order, according to a separate affidavit.
Neighbors also have accused Calcia of dumping garbage from his trash-collection business on his property to feed his goats, pigs, ducks and chickens, according to local officials.
“We have received complaints about that,” Sorrento Selectman Harold Page said recently. “We’ve had many complaints.”
Calcia, with help from his defense attorney Charles Helfrich of Ellsworth, argued in court Thursday that his pending trial should be held outside of Hancock and Washington counties because he does not think he can get a fair trial in the two-county prosecutorial district. The neighbor who accused Calcia of pointing a gun at him during an argument over the animal trespassing is related to a former assistant district attorney who may have played a role in making sure Calcia faced criminal charges in the dispute, according to the defendant.
Calcia also argued that interest by the Bangor Daily News in his case warranted a change of venue, even though at the time of the court proceeding the BDN had not yet published a detailed story about the charges against him.
“My fear is that if this is run as a story, it will make it further more difficult to find impartial [jurors],” Calcia told Justice Kevin Cuddy.
William Entwisle, assistant district attorney for Hancock County, told Cuddy that the former local prosecutor worked solely in Washington County and had “no influence” over Calcia’s case. He also said that though the BDN had indicated on its website that it planned to publish a story about Calcia, that indication did not merit a change of venue.
Cuddy told Calcia that the neighbor’s relationship to the former Washington County prosecutor had not created a prejudice that would warrant moving Calcia’s pending trial. As for the BDN interest in the case, media organizations have a right under the First Amendment to report public information, the judge said.
“I’m not satisfied a change of venue is appropriate in this case, and I’m going to deny that motion,” Cuddy said.
Cuddy said he expected Calcia’s case to go to trial in March.
After Thursday’s proceeding, Calcia and Helfrich declined to comment on the criminal charges against Calcia.
Calcia also faces four civil counts of animal cruelty and seven civil counts of animal trespass in Ellsworth District Court stemming from the animal complaints.
Calcia made one comment Thursday about the civil animal allegations.
“People like their bacon and people like their eggs, but people don’t like the rooster or the pig,” he said.
The claims against Calcia are similar to others he has faced in Massachusetts, where he was accused of animal cruelty and accumulating trash on his property in the late 1990s, and in Pittsfield, Maine, where neighbors complained in late 1999 that Calcia’s animals frequently wandered onto adjacent properties. Calcia moved in 1999 from Princeton, Mass., to Pittsfield.
Calcia was the subject of an 11-day manhunt in the Pittsfield area in 2002 after he was accused of firing a gun at his brother-in-law during a domestic dispute, according to reports published in the BDN. He pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges of reckless conduct.
In a recent interview, Entwisle said a criminal background check in Maine revealed no felony convictions for Calcia, which is why he is permitted to possess firearms despite the 2002 Pittsfield incident. Entwisle said he had not tried to check Calcia’s criminal background in Massachusetts but that he might do so.
Recent attempts by the BDN to track down Calcia’s criminal record in Massachusetts have been unsuccessful.
But according to reports published more than a decade ago in the Telegram & Gazette newspaper of Worcester, Mass., Calcia’s farming operations in Princeton, Mass., attracted official attention in 1998 after 10 dead animals were found on his farm on Sterling Road. Around the same time, neighbors complained of a pungent odor coming from the property, apparently caused by nearly 55 tons of clam and quahog bellies that Calcia was using to feed his pigs, according to the newspaper. Calcia was accused of animal cruelty charges and ordered by officials to clean up his property, the Telegram & Gazette stories indicate. The newspaper also reported that Calcia was ordered in 1999 by a Superior Court judge in Massachusetts to stop accepting trash, waste and garbage at the Sterling Road property.
Then in Maine in 2006, the towns of Palmyra and Carmel each fired Calcia as its trash collector after residents complained of poor and inconsistent service.
Calcia drew positive attention in Maine in 2009, however, when he and others set out to help find work for a homeless man who had been forcibly removed from a makeshift camp the homeless man had built for himself in the woods of Corinna. The homeless man was a former employee of Calcia’s, according to newspaper reports.