AUBURN — A Livermore man charged with hunting violations said in court Monday that he was the victim of an overzealous Maine Warden Service.

Dennis LaMontagne, 47, testified at his trial that wardens issued to him summonses for hunting violations even though he hadn’t been the one hunting.

Prosecutors said at LaMontagne’s trial in Androscoggin County Superior Court that he broke the law when he shot a gun too close to a dwelling, criminally trespassed and failed to show a hunting license, all misdemeanors.

The two sides agreed on little, including that LaMontagne had been at work logging in Weld on Nov. 18, 2014, when he and his son-in-law, John Rolfe, were near their River Road home.

For much of what happened after that, though, accounts by prosecutors and the defense differed greatly.

LaMontagne said Rolfe shouted for him to stop his truck because he had spotted a buck in an adjacent field.

Rolfe slid his bolt-action .303-caliber hunting rifle from the front passenger seat and grabbed some bullets from the dashboard, LaMontagne said. Rolfe got out of the truck, crossed a ditch and, from a rock wall, fired a single shot at the deer.

The deer ran onto posted property that LaMontagne was forbidden from entering, he said. So, he called 911 in hopes of getting help from a local game warden to track the deer, he said. He pointed out to the responding wardens where the gun had been fired.

LaMontagne said his call, an effort to “do the right thing,” actually sparked a criminal investigation by the Maine Warden Service, which, he said, had been targeting him since the first day of hunting season when he found two wardens parked on his property at 5 a.m. One of those wardens, a longtime acquaintance LaMontagne had helped out a couple of times in the past, had told him “he was gonna keep a close eye on me this year.”

The two wardens who responded to LaMontagne’s 911 call were able to secure permission from the owner of the property where the deer had fled and tried to track until it was too dark to see. But, they also had noticed how close to a nearby home the empty rifle shell casing had been ejected from the gun that shot at the deer.

They took some GPS readings and charged LaMontagne with discharging a firearm near a dwelling and with duty to carry and exhibit license or permit. The next day, the wardens returned with a tape measure for a more precise calculation and searched again for the wounded deer. Lamontagne was cited for criminal trespass. Maine law forbids discharge of a firearm within 100 yards of a dwelling.

Warden Eric Blanchard testified Monday that the found casing had been within 250 feet of the home, 50 feet short of the limit.

About a month after the deer had been wounded, at least three wardens had returned to the shooting site on River Road to conduct forensic mapping in an effort to get an even more exact distance of measure from casing to dwelling, one warden testified.

On the day of the shooting, Warden Kristopher MacCabe told LaMontagne, “We are going to need the gun,” Warden Troy Thibodeau testified Monday. MacCabe testified he asked LaMontagne, “for the firearm he shot the deer with.”

Both sides agree that LaMontage reached in his truck and handed MacCabe his own gun, like the one used by Rolfe, except his hunting rifle, handed down from his father, was a semiautomatic instead of a bolt-action.

Several wardens said LaMontagne had admitted to them to having shot too close to the nearby home; LaMontagne testified Monday that he never told any warden that he was the one who had shot the deer that day.

In January 2015, ballistics experts at the Maine Crime Lab determined that LaMontagne’s gun hadn’t fired the .308-caliber shell casing found at the scene.

As a result of those findings, Thibodeau secured a warrant to search LaMontange’s home, outbuildings and vehicles for a .308-caliber rifle in hopes of matching it to the shell casing recovered from the scene.

Five wardens converged on his property in three trucks on the morning of April 11, 2015, armed with that warrant.

Wardens testified they found two .308-caliber bolt-action rifles in LaMontagne’s bedroom, one of which matched the recovered casing. LaMontagne insisted Monday that the rifle that fired the shot at the deer was, in fact, a .303-caliber rifle that can fire a .308-caliber bullet that was used by his son-in-law.

LaMontagne described the scene of the search warrant execution as a surprise intrusion on his family, one daughter hosting two friends for her birthday and another daughter, nursing an infant.

An angry LaMontagne confronted wardens in his driveway and was punched by a warden after throwing ammunition from his truck in the mud. He was slammed against his truck then handcuffed during the nearly hourlong search before he was released, he told the jury Monday.

The Maine Warden Service has come under fire in recent media accounts for being overzealous and overly aggressive in its tactics.

Assistant District Attorney Andrew Matulis motioned after opening statements Monday morning for a mistrial, arguing many of defense attorney Leonard Sharon’s statements to the jury were irrelevant, including his account of one of LaMontagne’s daughters being interrupted from breastfeeding her infant during execution of the search warrant.

“This is completely playing off media coverage,” Matulis said, referring to recent published negative accounts about the Maine Warden Service.

Justice Lance Walker denied Matulis’ motion, but said he understood Matulis’ position, calling Sharon’s opening statement “robust.”

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.