AUGUSTA — Lincoln County District Attorney Natasha Irving has dismissed misdemeanor charges against a former state lawmaker who failed to disclose a felony conviction when he obtained a hunting license.

Former state Rep. Jeffrey Pierce

Irving said she did not believe she had enough evidence to guarantee a conviction against former Rep. Jeffrey Pierce, a Republican from Dresden, in a jury trial, and that she was not inclined to spend taxpayer funds to proceed. Irving, a Democrat, also said her office wanted to treat Pierce like any other person who was facing similar charges, and that prosecutors had more serious cases to pursue.

She said Pierce, in an agreement with her office, had donated the $750 he would have been fined to a conservation organization in Maine.

Pierce faced three counts of fraudulently obtaining a hunting license, a Class E misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in March in Lincoln County District Court and requested a jury trial.

The former lawmaker would not confirm the agreement in an interview Monday, saying it was between him and the district attorney’s office. He said he was the target of a politically motivated “witch hunt” and that he would now ask a judge to restore all of his rights and privileges as a citizen, including the right to possess a firearm.

He also said he plans to run for the Legislature again. Pierce lost a re-election bid in November for the House District 53 seat to Alison Hepler, a Democrat from Woolwich.

Pierce was convicted of felony-level drug trafficking in 1983 for selling cocaine and marijuana to an undercover state trooper. His criminal record also includes several misdemeanor offenses between 1980 and 2006.

Both state and federal laws prohibit anyone convicted of a felony from possessing firearms. State law also makes it a crime to fraudulently obtain a firearms hunting permit or to falsify a hunting permit application, which expressly asks if an applicant is a convicted felon. Possession of a firearm by a felon is an additional felony-level crime under both state and federal law.

The Maine Democratic Party disclosed Pierce’s previous criminal record in a news release just two weeks before the 2018 election. That release included records of his drug trafficking and other convictions.

Pierce was pardoned by former Republican Gov. Paul LePage in late 2018. However, the pardon does not expunge his record.

The Maine Warden Service alleged in summonses issued to Pierce that he obtained hunting licenses “through fraud, misstatement or misrepresentation” in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Maine has a three-year statute of limitations on some fish and game license application violations. Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife game tagging records also showed that Pierce had tagged game on firearms hunting permits on at least five occasions from 2001 to 2012.

Irving said wardens did not believe they had enough evidence to charge Pierce with the more serious possession of a firearms charge, which is often referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution in the federal courts. She said she trusted the judgment of wardens involved in the case in deciding to dismiss the state charges against Pierce.

Pierce said he now hopes to put his past behind him. He has said he worked for decades after his drug trafficking convictions to repay his debts to society by serving his community, being an upstanding family man, donating time and money to charitable groups and serving in the Maine Legislature.

Pierce said he most regrets what his family had to go through as the details of his past convictions emerged.

“To be honest, had I realized that what I had done 35 and 38 years ago was considered a felony, I would have never ran for office,” Pierce said. “Because I wouldn’t have put my family through this. I truly did forget about it and I never, ever tried to mislead anybody.”

But now, Pierce said, he will run for office again because he believes in “restorative justice” and wants to show that a person with a criminal record who has paid his debt to society can be redeemed.

 

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