By Stephen Betts | Sep 06, 2017
WASHINGTON — A 58-year-old Washington man was convicted Wednesday, Sept. 6, of a trio of hunting violations,but the most serious charge, felony cruelty to a deer, was dismissed by the state.
Ronald Mole pleaded no contest in Knox County Superior Court to night hunting, placing bait to entice deer and discharging a firearm near a dwelling. The no contest plea results in a conviction, but allows him to challenge the facts in separate administrative or civil proceedings.
The District Attorney’s Office dismissed a more serious charge of aggravated cruelty to animals. The charge was considered to be the first time that the animal cruelty law had been used in relation to the shooting of a deer by a hunter.
Mole will be fined $1,000 if he adheres to terms of a deferred disposition over the next 12 months. The terms require him to obey all laws during the next year. If he commits any new offenses, he could face up to the maximum of 365 days in jail for the night hunting conviction.
The offenses occurred Nov. 6 and Nov. 7 on the Old Union Road in Washington, according to paperwork filed in court by Maine Game Warden Joey Lefebvre of the Maine Inland and Fish and Wildlife department.
The animal was shot while Mole was illegally night hunting, according to investigators. The deer was left to suffer during the night until Mole returned the following morning, the state claimed.
The cruelty charge had alleged that Mole acted in a way that “manifested a depraved indifference to animal life or suffering, did intentionally, knowingly or recklessly cause extreme physical pain to an animal, cause the death of an animal, or physically torture an animal.”
Generally, animal cruelty cases involve abuse to pets.
After Mole was charged, his attorney, Christopher MacLean, of Camden, had said he was amazed that his client had been charged with animal cruelty.
“In a state with such a proud hunting tradition, it absolutely amazes me to see a felony prosecution for animal cruelty in a case where the deer was lawfully shot and properly tagged by a licensed Maine hunter. Cases like this slowly erode hunting rights in the state; I fear the next step will be to restrict gun ownership itself by those who have no understanding of Maine’s hunting tradition,” MacLean said at the time the charges were brought.
The state said the hunting occurred at 8 p.m. Nov. 6. Sunset was at 4:19 p.m. Hunting is prohibited from 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise.
Then District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau said after the charge was filed that the theory of prosecution for this case was that there was a far greater chance of a deer’s suffering if it was hunted illegally at night when a clean shot is less likely and when the deer cannot be tracked as easily.
Firing a gun within 100 yards of a residential dwelling is illegal in Maine without the permission of the property owner.
A companion case against Lisa Black, 47, of Washington, was dropped by the state. Black had been charged with unsworn falsification and false registration of a deer.