The man known as the “North Pond Hermit” will not have to pay $1,125 for roadwork done by Maine State Police to reach his remote campsite in Rome, as a result of a decision released Thursday by the state’s highest court.

Christopher T. Knight, 50, convicted of burglaries and thefts that occurred in the Rome and Smithfield area, had argued through his attorney, Walter McKee, that he was not responsible for repaying the police for repairs to a gravel road they damaged in 2013 when they used it to remove the items from his campsite. Knight had lived alone for 27 years in the woods of central Maine before he was arrested in April 2013, a case that drew worldwide news media attention.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court, in a 4-2 decision issued Thursday, agreed with Knight.

“The law court plainly and clearly accepted what we have said all along: Forcing Chris to pay for the damage the Maine State Police, not Chris, caused to the road made no sense,” McKee said Thursday.

Oral arguments in the appeal were heard May 5 when the court sat in special session at Washington Academy in East Machias. Knight, who remains on probation, did not attend that hearing.

The decision, written by Supreme Court Associate Justice Jeffrey Hjelm, says, “We conclude that in the circumstances of this case, the MSP is not a statutorily eligible recipient of restitution, and we therefore vacate the order of restitution but affirm the remaining aspects of the judgment of conviction and the related sentence.”


Chief Justice Leigh Saufley and Associate Justice Donald Alexander dissented from the decision, writing, “Once Knight was finally discovered, law enforcement had to make heavy, damaging use of a private road to clear the land of the amassed stolen items and return at least some of those items to the victims. The sentencing court required Knight, as part of his restitution sentence, to reimburse the state for the modest cost of repairing that road. We would affirm the court’s decision.”

Knight grew up in Albion, then left civilized society after high school, spending some 27 years alone in the woods at campsites he outfitted with items stolen from Rome and Smithfield cottages and camps. The mysterious break-ins spawned the local legend of a “North Pond hermit.”

Authorities caught Knight breaking into the Pine Tree Camp three years ago and arrested him, and the case drew news media attention from across the nation and world.

Kennebec and Somerset counties District Attorney Maeghan Maloney, whose office prosecuted Knight and sought the money for the roadwork, said Thursday that the top question was one of “pure statutory construction.”

“The minority decision encouraged the Legislature to revisit the restitution statute,” Maloney said. “I will be happy to work with the Legislature on the restitution statute when the session begins in January.”

In 2015, after completing a specialty court program for people with mental health and substance abuse problems, Knight was sentenced on burglary and theft charges and ordered to serve seven months in jail — time he already had served — and the remainder of the five-year sentence was suspended. The restitution for the roadwork was ordered at that March 2015 hearing, and McKee objected. At that point, Knight had paid almost all the $1,900 restitution to the victims of the burglaries and theft offenses.


He is now serving the three-year period of probation, which ends March 22, 2018, according to the state Department of Corrections website.

Deputy District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh, who argued on the state’s behalf, said criminals should bear the financial burden related to investigations.

“Between the innocent taxpayer supporting the state police or the criminal that caused that, it should be more about a criminal,” Cavanaugh said in May.

He also said at that time that Knight was meeting the conditions of that probation, including paying $25 a month toward restitution. In fact, after the hearing, Cavanaugh referred to a note provided by Knight’s probation officer, which said Knight reports to her as required, remains in treatment and was paying restitution.

Cavanaugh said there was no indication that Knight was employed.

McKee, too, said at that time that he did not know whether Knight had a job. Knight continues to remain out of the public eye and refuses interview requests sent through his attorney.


At the oral argument, McKee said Knight does not have the money to pay for the road repair and should not have to because the road repair was “so far attenuated or removed from the crime for which he was convicted” and could lead to numerous other costs assessed to people, such as a bridge built to an island so firefighters could fight a fire.

“There are no individual victims here,” McKee said. “The victims are the state police.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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