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Judge orders trio to pay $262,000 for torching shop, lobster boat

By Stephen Betts | Feb 01, 2019

Wiscasset — A judge ordered Tuesday, Jan. 29, that three men pay restitution of $262,000 for their roles in setting fire to a boat shop in Waldoboro nearly seven years ago.

A lobster boat built specifically for a paraplegic lobsterman from Friendship was destroyed in the fire.

Justice Daniel Billings ordered the restitution after a hearing in Lincoln County Superior Court.

In addition, the third and final defendant in the arson case was sentenced.

James R. "Jamie" Simmons, 43, was sentenced to four years in prison with all but five months suspended, to be followed by three years of probation for arson. He had entered a no-contest plea to the arson in November. A no-contest plea results in a conviction, but allows the defendant to contest the accusations in a civil case.

The judge ruled that the lobster boat was worth $200,000 and the large Quonset hut boathouse $60,000.

The fire occurred on the night of June 21, 2012, on Friendship Road in Waldoboro. The boathouse was owned by Donald Simmons, a lobster fisherman, who is not related to James Simmons.

Stored inside the boathouse was a 36-foot Wayne Beal fiberglass lobster boat owned by Danny Reed Jr. of Friendship. Reed is paraplegic.

Assistant District Attorney Christopher Fernald had argued for significantly more restitution to compensate Reed for lost potential income.

James Simmons' attorney, Steven Peterson, of Rockport, said Friday that he argued that Reed was not entitled to lost income because he had not been using the vessel and was receiving disability income.

Peterson said he had also argued that the boat was worth less than $200,000, but the judge disagreed.

Frederick A. Campbell, 34, of Friendship, was sentenced in July 2018 to five years in prison with all but nine months suspended, to be followed by four years of probation, for arson.

Jeffrey Luce, 40, of Whitefield, had pleaded guilty in October 2015 to arson in the case.

Fernald said Friday that the judgment in the criminal cases requires the men to make restitution not only during their probationary period, but after the probation is completed. The state can file a motion to enforce restitution. Under terms of the agreement, if one or more do not pay their share, the others are liable for the remainder.

The affidavit filed in court at the time by Kenneth MacMaster of the Maine Fire Marshal’s Office states that James Simmons was an immediate suspect in the arson investigation because of an ongoing, escalating feud with Donald Simmons.

Hundreds of lobster traps belonging to both men had been cut. James Simmons was also convicted and sentenced in September 2012 to 364 days in jail with all but 45 days suspended for reduced charges of criminal threatening and reckless conduct for shooting a rifle in the direction of Donald Simmons at Wallace’s Lobster Wharf in Friendship Dec. 4, 2011.

The big break in the arson case occurred in May 2014, after Luce was arrested for stealing batteries. Luce had been a sternman, along with Campbell, for James Simmons.

Investigators said in reports filed in court that Luce told them he was visiting with James Simmons on the evening of the fire, when the two went for a ride and stopped at Campbell’s residence. James Simmons and Campbell had been drinking heavily, according to police reports filed in court.

Luce said Campbell suggested they retaliate against Donald Simmons and all three agreed, according to the affidavit. Campbell got some kerosene and they drove to Donald Simmons’ place. Campbell was dropped off at the end of the driveway and Luce and James Simmons returned to James Simmons’ home.

The three men were indicted in September 2014. An appeal over whether cellphone records could be used contributed to the delay in final disposiiton of the case. The court ultimately ruled the cellphone records could not be used, which led to the plea agreements.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Nancy Harmon Jenkins | Feb 04, 2019 08:03

So Donald Simmons, a paraplegic, cut hundreds of trap lines? Hard to believe. Sounds like all three need about 10 years of rigorous community service with disabled people plus some very thoughtful therapy about how we behave in a community.

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