BANGOR, Maine — A Stonington man was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court to seven years in prison for what the judge called “simply crazy conduct.”
Jeremy James Eaton, 40, pleaded guilty in March to setting ablaze another man’s lobster boat on April 16, 2014.
The vessel was destroyed, according to court documents.
“To burn a lobsterman’s boat is to destroy his livelihood,” U.S. District Judge John Woodcock said in imposing the sentence recommended by the federal prosecutor. “You really struck at the heart of your community.”
In addition to prison time, Woodcock sentenced Eaton to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $25,000 in restitution to the firm that insured the boat.
Eaton’s conduct was described Thursday by Assistant U.S. Attorney James Moore as a “personal vendetta” against the boat owner with whom Eaton had a “long history of animosity.” A more specific motive has not been made public.
The owner of the lobster boat, who has not been identified, did not attend the sentencing.
“I realize that what I did hurt a lot of people,” Eaton, who has a long criminal history that includes domestic violence convictions, told Woodcock. “I realize I must change myself.”
To ensure that that happens, the judge ordered Eaton to take part in a batterers’ intervention program and mental health counseling for alcoholism and other issues while he is on supervised release.
The night of the fire, Eaton walked to the harbor in Stonington and removed gasoline cans from a skiff tied to a dock, according to the prosecution version of events to which he pleaded guilty. Eaton then used a small boat to ferry himself and the gas cans to a fiberglass lobster boat moored in the harbor. He set the boat on fire and returned to the harbor.
Woocock on Thursday said that Stonington needs a break from Eaton.
“Just a few alcoholic bullies in a little town can have a profound impact on the community as a whole,” the judge told Eaton just before imposing the sentence. “Stonington has been your community all your life. These are your people, your relatives, your neighbors. You’ve put a shiver down the spine of Stonington.”
Eaton faced up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
The investigation was conducted by the state fire marshal’s office and the U.S. Coast Guard.