Judge rejects elver fisherman’s request to delay trial so he can cash in on high prices next season

Posted Nov. 06, 2012, at 6:45 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — A superior court judge on Tuesday rejected a Hancock man’s request to delay his trial on an elver fishing violation so that the man could take advantage of the high price of elvers in the next season.

Gary Hallett, 44, was issued a summons on April 8 for harvesting elvers, or baby eels, during a closed season at Camden Public Landing, and his trial is scheduled for this month in Knox County Superior Court. If convicted, Hallett could lose his license to fish for elvers for a year.

Although Hallet’s attorney initially said he needed to delay the trial so Hallett could tend to his pregnant wife, he later admitted that Hallett didn’t want to miss the opportunity to make $200,000 next elver season.

Defense attorney Nicholas Walsh of Portland had filed paperwork in court saying Hallett needed the delay because of his wife’s high-risk pregnancy.

Hallett “must be available at a moment’s notice to assist his wife and care for his children,” according to the document.

Walsh repeated that argument at Tuesday’s hearing, saying his client was soon to arrive at the courthouse with a note from his wife’s doctor. The birth is due in June, the attorney said.

Justice Jeffrey Hjelm questioned the attorney on why Hallett could not take a short time away for a trial. The judge also asked how Hallett could be working if he is not away from his wife for any time.

Walsh then asked if he could approach the judge to speak to him privately, but Hjelm said that anything to be said was to be stated in open court.

Walsh then said Hallett contests the allegation that he was fishing out of season, but said that if his client was convicted, he automatically would lose his right to fish for elvers for one year.

Hallett has an opportunity to make $200,000 in the coming elver season because of the high prices being paid, he said. The price at the end of the last 10-week season was $2,600 per pound.

“The chance to make this kind of money is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Walsh said.

Next year’s elver season is scheduled to run from March 22 through May 31.

The value of the 2012 elver harvest in Maine was expected to exceed $40 million, five times that of the previous year.

Assistant District Attorney Jeff Baroody said that while he has no problem with a delay in the trial because of a health issue, he objected to a delay to allow someone charged with violating elver harvesting laws to fish another season.

Justice Hjelm agreed and denied the motion to continue the trial until July.

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