AUGUSTA, Maine — The state’s highest court has affirmed the convictions of an Allagash man found guilty on a number of hunting violations.
Carter McBreairty, 60, was convicted by a jury in Aroostook County Superior Court in September 2014 of three counts of hunting under the influence, three counts of exceeding the bag limit on deer, three counts of having a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, night hunting, failure to register a deer and over limit on brook trout.
He was sentenced to serve 364 days in jail with all but 30 days suspended and 60 days of 24-hour home confinement after the jail time. He also was ordered to pay fines in excess of $10,300.
McBreairty’s attorney, Allan Harding of Presque Isle, made several arguments in his client’s defense before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in February, including that there was insufficient evidence to support a conviction on five of the thirteen counts, that McBreairty was prejudiced when he was not provided physical access to fish in the state’s possession prior to trial, and that the state’s misstatement of fact during its closing argument also wrongly influenced the jury against him.
Aroostook County Assistant District Attorney James Mitchell denied those allegations in court briefs, and District Attorney Todd Collins argued the case before the justices.
McBreairty was among three men who were convicted on a number of hunting and theft violations following a year-and-a-half-long undercover investigation conducted in 2012-2013 by a Maine Warden Services investigator.
Warden Investigator William Livezey testified for the prosecution at trial about how he posed as a Pennsylvania outdoor sportsman and accompanied Carter McBreairty to the Allagash area nine times from June 2012 through December 2013.
While hunting in November 2012, Livezey testified that McBreairty had him hide in the back of a vehicle to avoid paying a fee to hunt on gated land owned by a paper company. During that hunt, a deer was killed by McBreairty, and his girlfriend registered the deer as having been killed by her.
In July 2013, the warden observed McBreairty catch 11 brook trout, six over limit, according to court documents. In October 2013, again after failing to pay the fee for two people while hunting on gated land and hunting while drinking, McBreairty was heavily intoxicated while handling firearms, the documents state.
On a hunting trip on Dec. 7, 2013, McBreairty was so intoxicated before the hunt that he had a hard time getting dressed and putting on his shoes, according to the court documents. He drove a vehicle even though the undercover warden begged him to let him drive.
Chief Justice Leigh I. Saufley, writing for the majority in McBreairty’s appeal, noted that the justices believed there was sufficient evidence to convict McBreairty of all charges that the jury found him guilty of.
Saufley wrote that “after careful review of the evidence presented, including the warden’s testimony, we conclude that the jury could have rationally found each element of the challenged convictions proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Saufley also found no grounds to believe that the state violated the discovery rules, therefore denying McBreairty a fair trial, when the state produced only photographs of the illegally taken fish during the trial and not the actual fish.
“On this record, there is no indication that McBreairty sought to have the state produce the fish before or during the trial, nor did McBreairty move for a new trial on this basis notwithstanding his suggestion to the court that he would do so after entry of the verdict,” Saufley wrote.
The alleged prosecutorial misconduct involved the prosecution’s closing argument when he pointed out to the jury that one witness for the defense had been “convicted basically of lying in the past trying to protect a friend.”
Defense attorney Harding argued that while the witness admitted to the conviction for lying to police, there was no evidence that she did it to protect a friend.
Saufley wrote, however, that the “misstatement by the state was not material to any element of a crime’’ and only “bore on the witness’ credibility, which had already been undermined during trial.”
The justices thus found no reason to vacate the convictions.