ELLSWORTH , Maine — At the end of a brief trial Monday, an Eastbrook man was found guilty of shooting a deer on Mount Desert Island in November 2010.
Stephen S. Smith, 64, was convicted by a jury of eight men and four women of a single count of hunting or possessing deer in closed season. Deer hunting at any time of year is not permitted on Mount Desert Island.
Smith, whose family hails from the Mount Desert village of Otter Creek, had argued that he shot the animal in Otter Creek because it was a nuisance and appeared to be sick.
“I walked right up to it” to shoot the animal, Smith testified Monday. “It was obvious there was something wrong with the deer.”
After the conviction, Smith was given a mandatory minimum sentence of three days in jail and a $1,000 fine. The sentence was stayed until 9 a.m. Monday, Feb. 13, and could be delayed longer if Smith decides to the appeal the conviction.
Smith said after the trial he expects to appeal the conviction and to file complaints against William Entwisle, the assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case; District Attorney Carletta “Dee” Bassano; and Michael Povich, former district attorney. Smith suggested the prosecutors have a vendetta against him because of legal arguments he has won in the past but he did not say what sort of alleged misconduct he plans to cite in the complaints.
The incident occurred on Nov. 5, 2010, when Smith went to visit a Grover Avenue property owned by a friend. The friend, who was out of town for work, had asked Smith to keep an eye on the property and, according to Smith, had asked him to “take care of” an odd-looking deer that had been eating his shrubs.
A woman who lives nearby testified Monday that she heard a gunshot and, when she looked out a window of her home, saw Smith and another man place the deer in the back of Smith’s truck and then drive away. She called the police, who then stopped Smith in the local village of Seal Harbor and detained him until a Maine game warden arrived.
The warden, Brian Tripp, testified Monday that when he arrived at the scene maybe 90 minutes later, he saw that the deer was completely hidden under a rowboat in the back of Smith’s truck. Tripp said Smith initially denied having shot the deer on MDI and then, after he was told someone had seen him shoot the deer, Smith said he had shot it for food.
Tripp said it wasn’t until several days later that Smith called him and suggested the deer had been a nuisance.
Testifying in his own defense, Smith said he shot the deer because his friend had asked him to do so and there was something wrong with it. He said he never tried to conceal the dead deer and that he left the head sticking out of the tailgate of his truck so it would be visible.
Smith also said he would have eaten the deer for food had he been able to inspect it to make sure it was OK to eat.
Smith acknowledged that the deer was not damaging any property when he shot it with a 16-gauge shotgun and that he had not gotten the OK from state officials to shoot the animal. He said getting a permit can be a nuisance.
“I’d get permission now,” Smith testified. “I don’t need to go through this again.”
After the verdict was announced and the sentence imposed, Entwisle suggested to Justice Ann Murrary that state law required Smith to forfeit the firearm. The judge disagreed with Entwisle’s interpretation of the statute, however, and declined to order Smith to forfeit the shotgun.
Smith’s defense attorney, Will Blaisdell of Ellsworth, said after the trial that the deer was a nuisance animal and that he thought they had a good case. He said he plans to discuss a possible appeal with Smith before Feb. 13.
“I think the sentence is a little harsh,” Blaisdell said.
Entwisle said that because deer hunting is banned on MDI, because Smith did not have official permission to shoot the deer, and because it was not being a nuisance at the time it was shot, the jury made the right decision.
“The verdict was right, under the statute,” he said.
Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.