Three men convicted of arson for torching a Waldoboro boathouse in 2012 as part of a fishing dispute must pay $262,700 in restitution.
Friendship lobsterman James R. Simmons, 43, and his then-sternmen, Fredrick A. Campbell, 34, of Friendship, and Jeffrey P. Luce, 40, of Whitefield, must pay the restitution.
Of the $262,700, $200,000 will go to Danny Reed Jr., of Friendship, for the destruction of a lobster boat inside the boathouse; $60,000 to Donald Simmons, of Waldoboro, for the boathouse itself.
Superior Court Justice Daniel Billings ruled on the restitution order during a hearing at the Lincoln County Courthouse in Wiscasset on Tuesday, Jan. 29. The hearing included testimony from the three men, the victims of the arson, and an investigator from the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office.
James Simmons and Donald Simmons were involved in an ongoing feud involving hundreds of cut trap lines, according to investigators.
On June 10, 2012, two structures owned by James Simmons and used for his fishing business were destroyed by arson, according to an affidavit by Kenneth MacMaster, of the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office. James Simmons accused Donald Simmons of setting the fires.
Eleven days later, on June 21, 2012, Donald Simmons’ Quonset hut at 3600 Friendship Road in Waldoboro, with the 36-foot lobster boat inside, were destroyed by arson. Neither the hut nor the boat were insured.
James Simmons was immediately a suspect due to the feud, according to the affidavit, but investigators did not file charges until 2014, when Luce, arrested on an unrelated theft charge, confessed to his role in the arson and led investigators to evidence.
James Simmons and Campbell were arrested June 27, 2014.
Luce pleaded guilty to one count of class A arson and about a dozen charges from unrelated cases in October 2015. Campbell entered an Alford guilty plea to one count of arson in July 2018. James Simmons pleaded no contest to one count of arson in November 2018.
Prior to the restitution hearing, Simmons and Luce were sentenced for their roles in the arson.
Prosecutors dismissed the arson charge against Luce in exchange for a guilty plea to class B hindering apprehension or prosecution.
According to Assistant District Attorney Christopher Fernald, the charge results from Luce’s concealing or destroying evidence related to the crime.
Luce was sentenced to five years in custody with all but six months suspended and three years of probation.
His probation conditions include a requirement to undergo counseling and prohibitions on contact with the victims, possession of alcohol, and possession or use of dangerous weapons, excluding a knife for employment.
The in-custody portion of the sentence was stayed until 8 a.m. March 18.
“He did have a significant involvement, he does have a significant criminal record, but no one thinks Mr. Luce is a fire bug likely to find himself in this situation again,” Billings said.
James Simmons was sentenced to four years in custody with all but five months suspended and three years of probation for arson. The sentence was stayed until 6 p.m., Monday, Feb. 4.
His probation conditions prohibit possession of alcohol or illegal drugs, dangerous weapons, and incendiary devices, with the exception of one lighter at his home to light his wood stove and facilitate his legal use of marijuana. He may also keep gasoline at home for employment purposes.
Two victims statements were read into the record prior to James Simmons’ sentencing, from Danny Reed Sr. and Danny Reed Jr.
Danny Reed Jr. was represented at the hearing by his sister.
Reed Jr., in his statement, said he has been a quadriplegic since a 1998 car accident and the custom lobster boat was both a source of income and a means of mobility.
The loss of the boat led to depression and a loss of ambition or even a desire to get out of bed. Reed Jr. said he had invested every dollar he had into the vessel.
Reed Jr. hopes to use the restitution funds to build a handicapped-accessible house. He currently lives in a bedroom at his mother’s home.
Danny Reed Sr. also spoke about his son’s car accident at the age of 19.
“All he had left in his life, to work and get around as much as he could, they stripped him of that. It was stripped from him because of these guys burning his boat,” Reed Sr. said.
The arson inflicted psychological damage as well.
“I don’t think any amount of money we could possibly get (would) make my son feel better, but it has taken a toll on his life, physically and psychologically,” Reed Sr. said.
Billings asked how long it had been before the fire that Reed Jr. last used the boat. According to Reed Sr., it had been about a year.
During the restitution hearing, held after a short recess following James Simmons’ sentencing, Fernald recommended $300,000 in restitution to Reed Jr., about $57,064 to Donald Simmons, and $2,700 to Reed Sr.
Billings decided to order $200,000 in restitution for the boat, citing the boat’s value at the time of the fire, $200,000; the original cost of the boat, $140,000; and an estimate for replacement from Farrin’s Boat Shop, of Walpole.
Billings said the court was sympathetic to Reed Jr. and cognizant of the event’s impact on him, not only as a matter of dollars and cents, but also as a matter of quality of life.
“Whether the boat had major economic value or not, it had a significant impact on his quality of life … and this event had a major negative impact on him,” Billings said.
Fernald called three witnesses during the hearing: MacMaster, the fire investigator; Donald Simmons; and Reed Sr.
Steven Peterson, a Rockport attorney representing James Simmons, asked if MacMaster had written estimates for the hut and the boat.
MacMaster said he had a written estimate on the boat’s replacement from Farrin’s Boat Shop, obtained in December 2018, but no estimate for the hut.
MacMaster said his estimate for the boat was also based on a discussion with Maj. Rene Cloutier, of the Maine Marine Patrol.
The second witness, Donald Simmons, said that in addition to Reed Jr.’s boat, the fire destroyed his property inside the hut, including a skiff, a shrimping net, a tuna rod, and ropes for lobstering. He estimated the value of the items at $10,000.
Donald Simmons said he had no idea what the replacement cost of the structure would be.
Peterson said Donald Simmons was not the only individual who had contributed to the building’s purchase, indicating at least three other people had chipped in. He asked how much Donald Simmons himself contributed.
“A lot of it. It was 17 years ago. We had a verbal agreement,” Donald Simmons said.
The final state witness was Reed Sr., who said his son fished for more than five years prior to the accident.
Fernald asked Reed Sr. why his son was not fishing at the time of the fire.
Reed Sr. said it could have been due to his son’s physical condition or the condition of the boat, as the boat’s motor was not functioning at the time of the fire.
Lenny Sharon, another attorney for James Simmons, said Reed Jr. has an income from Social Security, limiting the amount of money he can make annually and still receive financial assistance.