AUBURN — A judge ruled this week that three criminal trials stemming from a 2014 haunted hayride in Mechanic Falls that killed a teenage girl will be moved out of southern, central and western Maine because of potentially prejudicial pretrial publicity.

Attorneys for the three defendants filed motions seeking change of venue from a local courthouse to Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties. Mechanic Falls is in Androscoggin County.

Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice MaryGay Kennedy agreed after a Monday conference with defense attorneys that the trials should be moved.

The trial of David Brown, 56, of South Paris, who was charged with misdemeanor reckless conduct, is scheduled for September in Sagadahoc County Superior Court in Bath.

Brown was the driver of a Jeep involved in the crash of a flatbed trailer on which roughly two dozen customers at The Gauntlet haunted hayride were riding when it struck a tree and overturned on a steep hill the night of Oct. 11, 2014. Seventeen-year-old Cassidy Charette, a Messalonskee High School student from Oakland, died from injuries suffered in the crash. Most of the other riders were injured, some seriously. Brown suffered a neck injury.

“The existing prejudice against (Brown) generated by the extensive pretrial publicity will prevent (Brown) from obtaining a fair and impartial trial in Androscoggin, Cumberland or Oxford County,” wrote attorney Leonard Sharon, who represented Brown at the time his motion was filed with the court.


Brown was mistakenly indicted on manslaughter and aggravated assault charges that were reported by media before the error was discovered and a corrected indictment was issued, Sharon noted in his motion.

Philip Theberge, 39, of Norway worked as a mechanic at Harvest Hill Farm on Route 26 where The Gauntlet is located. Like Brown, Theberge is charged with misdemeanor reckless conduct, punishable by up to 364 days in jail. His trial is tentatively scheduled for December at Lincoln County Superior Court in Wiscasset.

Peter Bolduc Jr., owner of Harvest Hill Farm at the time of the crash, was not indicted by an Androscoggin County Grand Jury last year after he submitted to a state-administered polygraph test. But in an unusual action, Harvest Hill Farm was charged with manslaughter, aggravated assault, driving to endanger and reckless conduct.

If convicted, the business faces fines of more than $100,000.

The trial of Harvest Hill Farm is tentatively scheduled to be held in November at Lincoln County Superior Court, according to clerks at Androscoggin County Superior Court.

An Androscoggin County grand jury met over three consecutive months before handing up the indictments a year ago.


The trials are expected to focus on who knew what and when.

According to court records, the 1979 Jeep CJ-7 towing the wagon did not have properly functioning brakes at the time of the crash. Its towing capacity was undersized for the heavy load and there was no braking system on the flatbed wagon that had no railings and only hay bales for seats, according to investigators with the Office of the Maine State Fire Marshal.

According to an affidavit of senior investigator Daniel Young, the brakes on the Jeep hauling the 20-foot-long farm trailer appeared to have failed, or had other mechanical problems, that caused “the Jeep and trailer to travel down a 300-foot gravel road with a continuous downward pitch.”

Charette’s family filed a civil suit last month against the farm and Bolduc claiming wrongful death in Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta.

The Jeep’s towing capacity was 2,000 pounds, according to the suit, while the wagon’s weight, with the hay bales and people aboard, exceeded 5,400 pounds.

The property on which the hayride was held was sold at foreclosure auction two weeks ago to the holders of its mortgage.

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