Maine justices vacate conviction in Aroostook County man’s theft case, after court used redacted testimony
CARIBOU, Maine— A Crouseville man found guilty in January 2012 of stealing building materials from the Presque Isle Snowmobile Club had his conviction vacated last month by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
Court justices found that during Richard A. Larsen Jr.’s trial in Aroostook County Superior Court in Caribou, the court erred when it admitted redacted versions of statements that Larsen’s adult son, Richard Larsen III, had made to police that incriminated both Larsen Jr. and Larsen III.
During a jury trial, Larsen Jr., 50, was convicted of burglary and theft by unauthorized taking or transfer for taking materials from the club in September 2009.
According to court documents, Larsen Jr. was employed by a contractor who had been hired in August 2009 to build a new clubhouse for the snowmobile club. That contractor died before the project was finished, and Larsen Jr. was not hired to complete the work.
The club instead hired a new construction company.
In September 2009, employees of the new construction company found that more than $11,000 worth of building supplies and materials were missing. There was no evidence of forced entry. Larsen Jr. had been in possession of a key to the groomer building in which the items had been stored, according to court documents. Many of the missing supplies were eventually found dumped and scattered along a road in the Beaver Brook area.
During the trial, Larsen III, 25, who was called as a witness, invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and refused to testify.
Court documents stated that Superior Court Justice E. Allen Hunter allowed prosecutors to admit two written statements that Larsen III had signed after being interviewed by the Presque Isle Police Department. Redacted versions of the statements were read into the record by the police officer who took the statement. As redacted, the son’s statements did not mention Larsen Jr. by name, but they included a detailed account of how Larsen III and a “person” had taken the building supplies from the club.
Aroostook County District Attorney Todd Collins said Monday that he and Deputy District Attorney Carrie Linthicum contended during the trial that the “person” was Larsen Jr.
Larsen III’s statement explained how he and the person met and drove to the club building site, used a key to enter the building and took building supplies to another site for storage. The state also submitted other evidence, and the jury found Larsen Jr. guilty. He was sentenced to 36 months in prison with all but 18 months suspended on the burglary charge, along with two years of probation. He also was handed a concurrent 18 month sentence on the theft charge and was ordered to pay $11,044 restitution to the club.
During oral arguments, Linthicum cited a supreme court decision in support of its position that the redaction of the statements effectively prevented any constitutional violations. The court rejected this argument and determined that the statements were not admissible against Larsen Jr. pursuant to the Maine Rules of Evidence. The justices also ruled that the redacted testimonial statements of Larsen III could not be admitted because he refused to testify and Larsen Jr. lacked the opportunity for cross examination either at trial or in any earlier proceeding.
Tammy Ham-Thompson of Gardiner, Larsen Jr.’s attorney, said that her client was pleased by the decision. Larsen Jr. served his sentence and now lives in Waterville. She said that she and her client were waiting to see if he would be tried again.
Collins said Monday that the the quality of the state’s case against Larsen Jr. was good, and that they were leaning toward trying Larsen Jr. again.
Linthicum said Monday that Larsen III was convicted in May 2012 of burglary and theft charges connected to the case. He was sentenced to four years in prison with all but one year suspended, along with two years of probation. The sentence will be served concurrent to time he was ordered to serve on an unrelated case.
Attorneys involved in the case said they did not want to answer additional questions concerning possible litigation or a retrial at this time.