BANGOR, Maine — A brother of the Hudson man beaten to death with a large crowbar more than 16 months ago denied Wednesday knowing of a plot allegedly hatched by other members of his family to harm the Bradford man on trial for murder.
Peter Robinson , 59, of Bradford is accused of killing David P. Trask, 71, on Nov. 12, 2011, in an alleged dispute over a right of way. Robinson’s trial began Monday at the Penobscot Judicial Center.
Under cross-examination, Carl Trask, 66, of Kenduskeag, one of the victim’s four brothers, testified that he had no knowledge of any plans his brothers might have had to kill Robinson.
Defense attorney Thomas Hallett of Portland has stated in at least one court document that two of the victim’s brothers and one of their wives hatched a murder-for-hire plot in 2012.
The Bangor Daily News is not naming the trio or the person they allegedly approached to carry out the plan because no one has been charged in the alleged scheme outlined in court documents and they have not testified about it in open court.
Hallett earlier this month subpoenaed the men and the woman as possible defense witnesses. Attorneys for the trio told Anderson last week that if their clients were called as witnesses they would invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refuse to answer questions.
The defense attorney argued last week at a hearing on pretrial motions that testimony about the alleged plot was important to the defense because “the relationship between the parties is the central issue in this case.” To prove that Robinson acted in self defense, Hallett must show that his client reasonably believed deadly force was necessary and reasonably believed Trask was about to use unlawful, deadly force against him, according to Hallett’s motion filed in opposition to the motions to quash the subpoenas.
“The evidence will show that prior to the incident at issue in this case there had been a feud between Peter Robinson and the entire Trask family,” Hallett said in the document. “In Peter Robinson’s mind, he did not differentiate between the Trasks and found them each to be a threat. The fact that after this incident the Trasks attempted to go outside the law and conspired to have Mr. Robinson murdered clearly shows that they were and continue to be a threat to Mr. Robinson.”
He told the judge Thursday that the “so-called plot was hatched 18 months after the homicide in the underlying case occurred,” so was not relevant to the defendant’s state of mind at the time of Trask’s death.
The plot came to the attention of police in May 2012 — about five months after Trask was released on bail — when an inmate at the Penobscot County Jail told officials that he had heard “that a man named Peter Robinson would be arriving at the jail and that whoever beat him up while he was there would get money from the Trask family,” according to Hallett’s opposition motion. It is unclear from court documents exactly when the inmate received this information.
Hallett said Wednesday afternoon that he would not be calling the Trask family members named in the subpoenas when the defense begins presenting its case Thursday. The defense attorney said that Superior Court Justice William Anderson had told attorneys he was going to grant the motions to quash the subpoenas.
Testimony about a second possible plot to harm the defendant came from a son of the victim. David A. Trask, 50, of Hudson denied asking his 26-year-old son to kill Robinson.
David A. Trask took the stand on the third day of the murder trial of the Bradford man accused of killing the witness’ father.
“I am not a murderer, sir, your client is in my opinion,” he told Hallett of Portland when cross-examined.
Other evidence presented Wednesday included a video made by Robinson.
Carl Trask, 66, of Kenduskeag, the victim’s brother, testified that Robinson apparently recorded a confrontation the three men had on Sept. 5, 2011, as the Trasks were leaving property adjacent to Robinson’s land. David P. Trask had purchased the parcel six months earlier in an attempt to get Robinson to leave, Hallett said in his opening statement.
Carl Trask said that as he and his brother were leaving the property that day, Robinson motioned for them to stop and approached the truck with a video camera under his arm. They did not know the camera was running, the victim’s younger brother said.
In the video shown in court, the Trasks denied terrorizing the Robinsons.
Carl Trask also said that a few weeks later he saw Robinson in a Corinth store.
“He shouted out to me, ‘D-Day’s coming,’” Carl Trask testified.
He told jurors of an earlier confrontation in August 2011 when Robinson threatened him and called him names as he was removing the cable gate to gain access to the road on which his brother, Robinson and other property owners shared a right of way.
“He jumped out of his truck and came up to me and said, ‘The war is on and I’m going to shoot you, you pig [expletive],’” Carl Trask testified. “He called me all kinds of names and said he owned lots of guns. Then, he said, ‘I will shoot and kill anyone down in these woods.’ And, that’s the God’s gospel truth.”
Michael Morrison of Charleston, a retired Maine game warden, testified Tuesday afternoon that fewer than three years before the elder Trask died, Robinson threatened to kill the victim and his brothers. Robinson felt the Trask family trespassed on his property while hunting, the former warden said.
Neighbors testified Tuesday that they had confrontations with Robinson over what he said was a need for privacy and the placement of the cable across the road on which property owners shared a right of way with him.
The state is expected to rest its case Thursday morning.
Hallett has declined to say whether the defendant will take the stand in his own defense. The defense attorney has listed 76 people as potential witnesses.
The case is expected to go to the the jury Monday or Tuesday.
If convicted of murder, Robinson faces between 25 years and life in prison.
Correction: An earlier version of this story requires correction. Derek Trask is 26, not 16.