AUBURN – A Lewiston man police said held two deer hunters at gunpoint at his home in November was sentenced Monday to nearly three years in jail, but won’t have to go if he stays out of trouble.

Marcel Houle, 41, of 395 Cotton Road had been indicted on two counts of kidnapping and four related felonies. He pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of criminal threatening and one count of criminal restraint, all misdemeanors, shortly before the scheduled start of his trial in Androscoggin County Superior Court. The consecutive sentences of 364 days on each of the three counts were all suspended. He also received three years probation.

Police said Jason Mottram and Larry Austin were deer hunting on Nov. 9 when they came across an unmarked tree stand in woods off Cotton Road in Lewiston, according to a memorandum prepared by Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Worden. Because the hunters wanted to put Austin’s stand in its place, they moved the unoccupied stand to a different location.

The next day, Austin went back to those woods to hunt and encountered the man whose deer stand he had moved. Austin told the man he didn’t know about the missing stand.

At dark, Austin went home, but felt bad for lying to the man in the woods. Wanting to return the man’s tree stand to him, Austin called Mottram and the two decided to return the man’s stand.

But neither Austin nor Mottram knew the identity of the man. They decided to ask Houle, whose property is adjacent to the woods where they were hunting.

The two men drove to Houle’s home and were greeted by Houle, who appeared to be drunk. The men told Houle why they had come. Houle picked up a black pistol and put it behind him, the men told police. Then Houle told the men to go into the woods with him to get the missing tree stand.

When Austin and Mottram declined, Houle aimed his pistol at Mottram and began making threats to kill both men. Houle told them he had high-powered rifles and could shoot at them in their homes even if they exited.

After “a substantial period of time” Houle let the men leave, telling them to “Tell (then-Lewiston Police Chief) Bill Welch if he sent anymore rats over he would kill them.”

During a pretrial hearing, a judge ruled that a cache of weapons found by police at Houle’s home could not be admitted as evidence during the trial because the two victims didn’t know they existed and they could prejudice the jury against Houle. Included among the 15 weapons seized were several assault rifles, Worden said.

The only gun allowed as evidence at trial would have been the black Smith & Wesson revolver used by Houle, Worden said.

That ruling diminished the strength of the state’s case enough to agree to the terms of the plea, Worden said.

Worden told the judge on Monday that police and the two victims weren’t pleased by the plea agreement.

“They are deeply disappointed,” he said.

Jack Simmons, a Lewiston attorney who represented Houle, said: “so too is the defendant.”

Houle’s three years probation requires him to:

• Not own, possess or use any firearms.

• Not possess or consume alcohol or illegal drugs.

• Be subject to random search for alcohol, drugs or firearms.

• Undergo psychological testing.

• Have no direct or indirect contact with Mottram and Austin.

• Complete substance-abuse counseling.

• Not associate with any other person who is on probation or parole without permission of his probation officer.

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