In what may have been the most public poaching case ever prosecuted in Maine, Maine Guides Lawrence Perry, Randy Burnell and Thomas Guptill were convicted of a variety of wildlife crimes following a Maine Warden Service undercover operation in 2003.
The 15 men and women charged were believed to have illegally killed dozens of deer in the Brownfield-Lovell-Fryeburg area.
In that case, Perry was convicted by an Oxford County jury of nine of the 29 counts against him, including one count of driving deer, two counts of having a loaded firearm in a vehicle, unlawful bear hunting with more than four dogs, hunting without hunter orange clothing and illegal possession of deer killed at night.
He was sentenced to serve three days in jail and fined $4,690, but he later appealed his conviction to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. In 2006, that court upheld six of the nine convictions, dismissing a guide license violation, and setting aside convictions for hunting without hunter orange clothing and one count of having a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle.
Perry later appealed his convictions in U.S. District Court, arguing entrapment by an undercover game warden, but the court upheld the convictions.
Of the 15 people charged with wildlife crimes in this case, including former Lovell Selectman Richard Eastman, only Perry took his case to trial. All other defendants, including Burnell and Guptill, negotiated plea deals.
Burnell pleaded guilty to 14 of 26 hunting charges, including two counts of hunting bears with dogs, three counts of driving deer, four counts of hunting deer after having killed one, one charge of hunting bears after having killed one, possession of an unregistered bear, criminal trespassing, having a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle and unsworn falsification.
Burnell was sentenced to serve 15 days in jail and fined $8,075.
Guptill pleaded guilty to one count each of hunting a bear after having killed one and driving deer. Four other charges were dropped. He was sentenced to three days in jail on the bear charge and fined a total of $1,400 on both counts.
According to court records, in one poaching incident, Perry invited an undercover game warden — who was posing as an out-of-state hunting customer — and Chad Nelson, another member of their hunting party, to “go riding,” which they all understood to be a euphemism for “hunting,” in the early morning on Nov. 26, 2003.
When the three pulled out of Perry’s driveway, a doe happened to be standing in the middle of the road and Perry instructed the men to shoot the animal.
The undercover warden stayed in the vehicle with Perry while Nelson got out of the truck and shot the doe, at which point Perry screamed at him for taking the time to get out of the truck, saying he should have shot the animal from the window since the trio were night hunting, anyway.
Perry instructed the men to toss the carcass in the back of his truck, and the men drove 15 miles to drop the animal at Burnell’s house so Burnell could “tag it by daylight.”
The undercover warden testified that the animal was killed at 4:04 a.m., well ahead of the legal time for that day’s hunt.
Nelson later pleaded guilty to two counts of night hunting and one count each of hunting a wild animal in the closed season, hunting deer after having killed one and carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle.
In his federal court request to stay his sentencing, Perry argued that the warden committed numerous criminal offenses himself while undercover, including driving deer, hunting with too many dogs and having possession of illegally killed deer. Perry also argued that the warden drank alcohol with other members of the hunting party during the undercover investigation, even though they were targets of his investigation, making Perry’s conviction fundamentally unfair.
The court ruled, though, that the undercover warden’s actions were “clearly designed to ingratiate himself with Perry and Perry’s friends and clients so he could personally observe violations of fish and wildlife laws,” and was not unduly outrageous that “due process requires a dismissal of all charges” or that it rose to the level of entrapment. Perry was required to serve his sentence.
According to current Maine Professional Guides Association records, Perry, Burnell and Guptill are not members of that organization. And, according to IF&W records, Perry's and Burnell's guide licenses were revoked for six years as part of their respective sentences. Both were eligible for renewal early this year, but neither has applied to recover his license. Guptill's license, which was never suspended, has expired.