AUBURN — Prosecutors aim to block Maine’s fire marshal from testifying at a criminal trial this week involving the driver of a Jeep involved in a fatal haunted hayride crash in Mechanic Falls two years ago.
David Brown, 56, of South Paris is seeking to have the top administrator of the Office of the State Fire Marshal take the stand at his trial to tell the jury that off-road vehicles such as those pulling flatbed trailers on farms are not regulated by the state and that there are no standards required for their use.
Prosecutors are seeking to block Fire Marshal Joseph E. Thomas from being called as a witness, reasoning that his testimony would be irrelevant because he played no active role in the investigation by his department into the incident that occurred on The Gauntlet ride at Harvest Hill Farm on the night of Oct. 11, 2014.
A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in Androscoggin County Superior Court.
Attorneys are expected to pick a jury today at West Bath District Court for a trial that is slated to start Thursday at Sagadahoc County Superior Court in Bath. That trial could last as long as four days, court clerks said.
Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice MaryGay Kennedy ruled earlier this summer in response to motions that the venues for the trials of Brown, Philip Theberge, 39, of Norway and Harvest Hill Farm, the company, be moved out of Androscoggin County because of potentially prejudicial pretrial publicity. Brown’s trial was moved to Bath; the other two to Lincoln County Superior Court in Wiscasset.
Mechanic Falls is in Androscoggin County.
Brown was charged with misdemeanor reckless conduct. If convicted, he faces up to 364 days in jail.
Brown was the driver of a Jeep involved in the crash of a flatbed trailer on which roughly two dozen customers on the haunted hayride were riding when it struck a tree and overturned on a steep hill.
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 concussion and broken ribs.
State law requires that the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant disregarded the risk of causing serious bodily injury to others and that his disregard of that risk was a gross deviation from what a reasonable person in that situation would have done.