Lobsterman testifies he pointed gun in self defense, denies firing shots

Gary Jones and his attorney Steven Peterson await the start of Jones' trial Tuesday in Knox County Superior Court.
Stephen Betts | BDN
Gary Jones and his attorney Steven Peterson await the start of Jones' trial Tuesday in Knox County Superior Court.
Posted May 13, 2014, at 12:01 p.m.
Last modified May 13, 2014, at 5:44 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — A 52-year-old lifetime lobsterman from Cushing told jurors Tuesday afternoon that he pointed a gun at another boat that was coming at him full-throttle to ensure his and his son’s safety, and to protect their two boats.

The defense later rested its case in the trial against Gary Jones, who is charged with criminal threatening with a shotgun. The district attorney’s office was uncertain whether it would call another witness Wednesday morning before the closing arguments are presented and the case handed over to jurors.

Jones told the jury that he began carrying a shotgun on his lobster boat after his boat and his 15-year-old son’s boat were taken out of the harbor, their hoses cut, and the vessels sunk. The damage to his boat totaled $30,000 and repairs for his son’s vessel reached $35,000.

While both boats were covered by insurance, the father and son missed two months of lobstering with the season just beginning, he said.

Assistant District Attorney Jeff Baroody said in his opening statements Tuesday morning that the case is about two feuding fishing factions and that Jones took the matter too far. Jones is accused of threatening Jeremy Yeaton and Justin Brazier with a 12-gauge shotgun on Oct. 10, 2012, while the men were in waters off Cushing.

Defense attorney Steven Peter disagreed with the prosecutor.

“This was self defense. This was about a campaign of terror against Jones and his family on the water in 2012,” Peterson said in his opening statements.

Jones said he has had to deal with harassment and threats from Yeaton family members for 15 years and claimed the state has not done anything to help.

“For 15 years this has happened and they have said there is nothing they can do,” Jones said as he turned toward Maine Marine Patrol Lt. Rene Cloutier who was sitting with the prosecutor.

Cloutier said on the witness stand Tuesday that he spoke with Jones when he returned to Wallace’s Wharf in Friendship after the incident. He said Jones was upset and acknowledged he had pointed the 12-gauge shotgun at a lobster boat as it approached his vessel at full throttle. He said he did so in self defense.

Jones denied, however, both to Cloutier in 2012 and again on the stand Tuesday that he fired the gun, saying Tuesday that he never has fired the weapon.

The shotgun was seized from Jones’ boat by another marine patrol officer. There were no shells in it and shells recovered from the boat did not fit the 12-gauge, Cloutier said.

Jones lobster boat and that of his 15-year-old son were sunk in May 2012. That was followed by some of the Joneses’ lobster traps being cut from their buoy lines that summer and then, the night before the Oct. 10 incident, another 400 to 500 traps belonging to Jones and his son being cut, according to court documents.

Under cross examination by Baroody, Jones acknowledged that Yeaton and Brazier did not have firearms that day off Cushing but he disputed the prosecutor’s contention that Yeaton did not have a weapon.

“Boats are considered weapons if they are coming at you,” Jones said.

He also testified that he was told by Coast Guard officials after the sinking of the boats in May 2012 that he could carry a gun on his boat to defend himself.

Jurors were shown a 57-second video that Yeaton shot with his cellphone during the confrontation but Justice Jeffrey Hjelm denied the prosecution’s request to let them hear the audio part of the video in which Yeaton can be heard narrating events. The video shows Jones’ boat but little else. Hjelm said that since Yeaton had not testified it would be unconstitutional to allow his testimony to be offered through the video without the defense being able to cross examine.

Yeaton still could be called as a witness on Wednesday.

The first witness to testify Tuesday was Brazier of Friendship, who was aboard the boat piloted by Yeaton on Oct. 10. Brazier said he and Yeaton had gone out on the water to monitor traps belonging to Yeaton’s family because some had been cut from their buoy lines.

He said they saw Jones’ son out on the water and about 10 to 20 minutes later, Gary Jones came speeding toward them, came within about 100 feet of the boat they were on, and was carrying a gun.

Brazier said he heard two gunshots and was scared about what was going to happen.

The boats eventually returned to port and no one was injured.

Jones testified that he came out to bring his son some antifreeze after his engine overheated but that he also heard on the marine radio at the dock that his son was being harassed by Yeaton.

Jones’ son Logan testified Tuesday that he had gone out that day and found string after string of traps cut. His boat overheated and he asked his father if he could bring out some antifreeze. Before his father arrived, Logan Jones said Yeaton appeared in his boat and came at his vessel at a high speed and then circled it repeatedly. The younger Jones supported his father’s version of events as did his sternman Doug Anderson.

Cloutier told jurors that there had always been hostility between the Jones and Yeaton families.

The marine patrol supervisor said it was not a good environment when he was at Wallace’s wharf that evening with numerous fishermen complaining about the lack of action by the agency concerning complaints of boat and trap vandalism.

The marine patrol lieutenant also denied that the agency has not responded to the complaints about trap cutting. He said the agency spends a lot of time putting officers on islands to secretly observe in areas where there have been reports of destruction of lobster gear.

“It’s not fair to say we haven’t done anything,” Cloutier said.

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