BATH — David Brown says he didn’t know about any mechanical issues with a Jeep before driving it in October 2014 while pulling a haunted hayride wagon that crashed, killing a 17-year-old Oakland girl and injuring more than 20 others.

That’s according to Brown’s attorney, who spoke Thursday during the first day of a trial in Sagadahoc County Superior Court in Bath. The attorney, Allan Lobozzo, used his opening remarks to head off many of the arguments he thinks the prosecution will make about Brown, 56, of South Paris, in connection with the crash at Harvest Hill Farms in Mechanic Falls that resulted in the death of Cassidy Charette.

Lobozzo is contending that the brake failure that led to the accident was sudden and catastrophic and not something Brown could have anticipated and reported to the mechanic at the farm.

“The state is going to try to present evidence that Mr. Brown knew there was a brake problem,” Lobozzo said.

Brown, who was employed by the farm where the fatal accident occurred in October 2014, stands trial this week on a misdemeanor charge of reckless conduct.

The trial began with opening remarks from James Andrews, a deputy district attorney in Androscoggin County, and Lobozzo.

Andrews was relatively brief in his outline of the prosecution’s case, which rests on the view that Brown may have known the poor state of the Jeep’s brakes before the accident.

“What the state is trying to prove to you today is Mr. Brown engaged in reckless conduct on the night in question,” Andrews told the 15-member jury at the outset of the trial. “I would suggest that Mr. Brown consciously disregarded the risk that the vehicle that he chose to drive that night was defective and too dangerous for the task at hand.”

To begin laying the groundwork for that case, Andrews called several investigators to the witness stand Thursday, including a Maine State Police trooper who also performs vehicle inspections. The trooper said the brakes on the CJ-5 Jeep operated by Brown that night were clearly in poor condition, and another trooper who took the car for a ride to test its brakes offered a similar assessment.

But a night before the accident on Oct. 11, 2014, Lobozzo said, “There was an issue with a carburetor, there was an odor, and it was making the (hayride) less pleasurable, and Mr. Brown raised the issue with the mechanic and they fixed it. So the concept that he would have a problem and simply ignore it doesn’t hold up.”

A grand jury also has indicted the farm where the crash occurred, Harvest Hill Farms, and a mechanic who worked there.

The farm business has since filed for bankruptcy and has been indicted on charges of manslaughter, aggravated assault, driving to endanger and reckless conduct.

Like Brown, the mechanic, Philip Theberge, was indicted on a misdemeanor charge of reckless conduct, which is a Class D misdemeanor that’s punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Neither of the trials for Theberge or the farm will be held this week.

The owner of Harvest Hill Farms, Peter Bolduc, has previously said that he had never been told the Jeep had a faulty brake line. Bolduc contradicted statements made by some former employees to investigators who said they had warned him the vehicle was unsafe.

Earlier this year, a safety task force formed in response to the fatal hayride said the state doesn’t have the ability now to regulate motorized farm attractions and would have to create a new agency to do so. The Hayride Safety Stakeholders Group found that neither the Maine State Police nor the state fire marshal’s office has the manpower or the resources to regulate motorized farm attractions.

Brown’s trial could last up to four days and was moved to Sagadahoc County upon the request of his attorney, who worried the media coverage there would bias the jury, Lobozzo said Thursday. But, Lobozzo added, most of the potential jurors in Sagadahoc County had already heard about the fatal hayride.

Andrews called his first two witnesses to the stand Thursday morning, investigators Daniel Young and Kenneth MacMaster from the state fire marshal’s office, who investigated the fatal hayride crash.

They were followed Thursday afternoon by Daniel Hanson and David York, both of the Maine State Police.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker


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