AUBURN — In what prosecutors called “one of the largest poaching operations seen in the state of Maine,” a Turner man was sentenced Thursday to serve nine months in jail and to pay nearly $14,000 in fines for roughly a dozen hunting violations and a felony drug conviction.
Everett Tyler Leonard, 33, said his addiction to painkillers accounted for his bad behavior. He has since overcome his addiction with the help of two years of drug rehabilitation.
“You are truly to be commended” for getting off the drugs, Justice MaryGay Kennedy told Leonard in the Androscoggin County Superior Court Law Library, which doubles as a courtroom. “But you left a path of carnage in your wake.”
A special investigator to the Maine Warden Service spent three months with Leonard and documented 19 deer he killed during that time.
Convictions in Maine include: molesting wildlife, driving deer, five counts of hunting after revocation and four counts of night hunting. More than a dozen counts were dismissed by prosecutors at the time Leonard pleaded guilty in December to a dozen counts.
Leonard also was convicted of illegal possession of oxycodone, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. For that conviction, Kennedy sentenced Leonard to 180 days in jail with all but 30 days suspended, plus a $400 fine and two years of probation.
She sentenced him to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for each of the hunting violations, most with consecutive sentences, but a few with concurrent sentences.
Kennedy noted that family members asked that Leonard be given a second chance.
“I happen to agree with the prosecutor,” Kennedy said. “He's been given many second chances already.”
Leonard bemoaned the loss of his ability to hunt, something he valued highly, he said. Kennedy said he'd been given the opportunity to regain that privilege after losing his license for four prior hunting convictions, but instead of reforming, he committed a slew of new violations.
“I appreciate that some people may not think that hunting violations are as serious as crimes against a person,” Kennedy said. “But I would suggest to you that these violations are crimes against the state of Maine and all the people of Maine. It affects what we see in nature. It affects what we can do in nature. It affects people coming to our state, our tourist industry. Just everyday life. It affects why people live here. We live here because of the quality of life.”
Assistant District Attorney Andrew Matulis said: “When someone poaches, they are stealing from all of us. Your Honor, it is truly against the traditions and culture of our society where there has been honorable hunting and honorable hunting practices for a long time.”
Leonard's attorney, Henry Griffin, said his client had changed since he kicked his drug habit.
That sentiment was echoed by Leonard's wife, Jennifer, and his mother, Laurel.
“I didn't like him,” his mother told the judge. “I got sick to my stomach when I saw him coming. He has changed so much.”
Leonard's wife, Jennifer, said she has been with her husband for 14 years, half of that time spent trying to help him beat his addiction.
She stuck with him because he has “one of the biggest hearts you'll ever meet,” she said.
She said she didn't want to face surgery for her cancer alone.
“I need him to be there for our children,” a 7-year-old daughter and a 2½-year-old son, she said.
Leonard told the judge he knew what he was doing was wrong and realized the investigation into his wrongdoing was the best thing that happened to him.
“I can honestly say it saved my life,” he said.
Since then, he's been working on a farm six days a week, spending time with his children and going to church.
“I've been scared for a long time, and I'm glad it's over,” he said.
Prosecutors had sought a total of 16 months in jail and $10,900 in fines. Griffin, Leonard's attorney, asked that the 105 days Leonard spent in a Pennsylvania jail for hunting violations there be the extent of his time spent behind bars.
Kennedy postponed his sentence until next week so he can attend a doctor's visit with his wife, who has cancer. He also must tell his daughter about his upcoming incarceration.
“I really need to have a sit-down with my daughter and talk because this is gonna kill her,” he said.
Leonard agreed to forfeit his four guns and a bow.
His father, Everett H. “Lenny” Leonard, 61, also of Turner, was sentenced to three months in jail for hunting and drug violations. The former law enforcement officer's sentence was suspended because he was in poor health.
In 2011, the younger Leonard was sentenced to three and a half to 14 months in prison plus 18 months probation for hunting violations in Pennsylvania. He was fined $3,550.
He had pleaded guilty to 11 illegal killings and 14 other game offenses, including hunting at night, hunting from vehicles and having loaded guns in vehicles.
Everett H. "Lenny" Leonard was sentenced to 15 days to two months in prison, plus 18 months of probation. He was fined $2,300.
Thursday's sentencing drew to a close the prosecutions of the Leonards and two other men on charges that followed months of investigation by the Maine Warden Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Pennsylvania Game Commission in 2010. In Maine, the violations occurred in Turner and Leeds.