May 22, 2018
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Judge allows Vinalhaven man banned from North Haven to return to the island

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — A judge agreed Monday to allow a 50-year-old Vinalhaven man to return to the neighboring island of North Haven after he was prevented from doing so for more than two months as a bail condition on a hunting violation.

Christopher MacLean, the attorney for Lavon S. Ames III, claims in a motion filed in Rockland District Court that the game warden who charged his client acted improperly by seeking the island prohibition as a bail condition. MacLean of Camden also alleged that Warden Mark Merrifield embarrassed his client by making him get out of bed naked during a bail check and shining a flashlight at his privates despite Ames asking him to stop.

Merrifield denied that allegation and defended the request to have Ames prohibited from being on North Haven where he owns a camp.

Ames initially was charged on Nov. 2, 2013, with having a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle.

Two weeks later, Merrifield arrested Ames at his Vinalhaven home for night hunting and violating a condition of release, alleged offenses that occurred that day on North Haven. Bail conditions set by a bail commissioner at that time included that Ames not be allowed to return to North Haven.

MacLean maintained in his motion that geographic restrictions on a suspect released on bail are occasionally used when someone is charged with a crime of violence such as manslaughter or domestic violence stalking. However, he said there was no basis for the condition in this case.

“Warden Merrifield appears to have unresolved personal issues with the defendant,” MacLean stated.

He said the warden acted unprofessionally during the bail check on Ames in November. The attorney said his client was naked when he got out of bed, and Merrifield thought it was humorous to keep shining a flashlight on Ames’ privates.

Merrifield said Monday, however, that Ames was not naked but wearing shorts and a T-shirt. The warden said that for his own safety, he kept the flashlight on the suspect during the nighttime bail check.

Merrifield said this was the third time he has charged Ames for an offense on North Haven. He also said the prohibition was reasonable, stressing the ultimate decision on that condition was made by the bail commissioner.

Judge Susan Sparaco made no comment when she ruled Monday during a brief hearing that Ames could return to the island.

MacLean also asked for a hearing to have the state return a Chevrolet Tahoe that was seized by police when Ames was arrested. Because another bail condition included Ames not be allowed to possess a firearm, the attorney said he also would seek a hearing later to let his client possess one during hunting season. Since hunting season is a long way off, that motion did not need to be acted on at this point, he said.

A telephone message left Monday afternoon for Merrifield was not immediately returned.

A hearing has not been scheduled on the other motions.


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