A key witness’s lack of credibility has forced the dismissal of all charges against a Waldoboro man accused of slashing police cruiser tires this summer.
Brian J. Bennett, 35, faced three counts of Class C aggravated criminal mischief and one count of Class C domestic violence terrorizing, all felonies; and nine counts of Class D criminal mischief, a misdemeanor. The charges were dismissed Monday, Nov. 9.
All four tires of a Knox County Sheriff’s Office cruiser and two Waldoboro Police Department cruisers were slashed behind the Waldoboro Municipal Building between 9 and 10 p.m. July 14, according to a Waldoboro Police Department news release.
A total of 20 more tires on other vehicles were slashed in driveways off Main and School streets around the same time, bringing the total number of tires to 32, according to the news release.
Waldoboro police arrested Bennett July 16.
Further investigation revealed problems with the case, however. Court documents list “insufficient evidence” as the reason for dismissal.
Bennett’s ex-wife was a key witness responsible for tying Bennett to the slashings, according to Assistant District Attorney Katie Hollstrom.
According to court documents and Hollstrom, Bennett’s ex-wife said he told her he had slashed the tires. She said he later threatened to have his friends hurt her and her family if she told anyone about his confession.
Bennett also had motive, according to Hollstrom. He “had recently been very upset with law enforcement for taking his marijuana plants” and, as a result of this incident, in combination with previous run-ins, “he’s not on friendly terms with the police department,” Hollstrom said.
The ex-wife’s story and the motive were enough for an arrest, “but the more we looked into that and all the people that she had been talking to, the more that story fell apart, because what she had told a number of people was that she was going to pin the charge on him,” Hollstrom said.
Officers also obtained the woman’s phone records, which did not match the woman’s statements to police about her conversations with Bennett, revealing another hole in her account.
“I didn’t want to base a case on her credibility when I didn’t feel she was telling the truth,” Hollstrom said. “That’s why the case was dismissed.”
Officers conducted a thorough investigation in an effort to locate other evidence, interviewing neighbors and seeking out surveillance footage.
“There was needle-in-a-haystack stuff they were looking into to see if anything might turn up that could either corroborate her story and/or lead to evidence in the case, and unfortunately, it just didn’t,” Hollstrom said.
Bennett did not leave court completely unscathed.
He was sentenced to five days in jail and a $400 fine for Class D marijuana cultivation and a concurrent five-day sentence for Class E taking elvers from inland waters. Both charges are misdemeanors.
The cultivation and elver crimes date to July 5 and 8, respectively. Both occurred in Waldoboro.
Bennett requested and received a stay of his jail sentence until 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 30.