The Lincoln County District Attorney’s Office has dismissed criminal charges against a former state legislator in exchange for his participation in a restorative justice program.
District Attorney Natasha Irving dismissed three counts of class E fraudulently obtaining or possessing a hunting license, a misdemeanor, against Jeffrey K. “Jeff” Pierce, 56, of Dresden, on May 13.
Pierce, a Republican, served two terms in the Maine House of Representatives, but lost his reelection bid in November 2018.
The Maine Democratic Party publicized Pierce’s criminal record less than three weeks before the election. His record includes convictions for drug crimes when he was 18 and 20.
He pleaded guilty Nov. 4, 1983 to a single count of class B unlawful trafficking of scheduled drugs, a felony, in Kennebec County.
He had sold cocaine to a state trooper on April 14, 1983, when he was 20, according to court documents. He was sentenced to eight months in custody with all but 30 days suspended, plus a year of probation.
Allison Hepler, D-Woolwich, won the House District 53 seat against Pierce.
Then-Gov. Paul LePage, also a Republican, pardoned Pierce of the long-ago crimes Dec. 31, 2018.
After the publicity regarding his record, the Maine Warden Service opened an investigation into whether Pierce had illegally hunted with firearms while a felon. That investigation led to the misdemeanor charges.
Waldoboro attorney Philip Cohen represented Pierce. Prior to the dismissal, the case had been scheduled for jury selection on May 30.
District Court Judge Barbara Raimondi presided over the case after Superior Court Justice Daniel Billings recused himself. Irving said she does not know why Billings recused himself.
According to Irving, Pierce’s restorative justice process included education about compliance with local, state, and federal laws. In addition, he made a contribution to a local conservation organization in the amount the state would have sought in fines.
Pierce, an alewife harvester and advocate for alewife and elver fishermen, chose the conservation organization Maine Rivers.
“Our office ultimately concluded that this method of proceeding was a better use of taxpayer resources, as well as a more just result, than an expensive trial, consistent with district-wide policy,” Irving said in an email.
Pierce said the donation was voluntary.
“There was no ‘If you do this, we’ll do this.’ The charges were dismissed, period,” he said. “There was no public service. She may have been happy with the public service that I have and have always done.”
Looking toward the future, Pierce said he will run for his old seat in 2020. “I was wronged by a political party that had no message,” he said of the 2018 race.
“If everybody has to be as pure as the driven snow, how are we going to get people who know what right is and what wrong is if they haven’t experienced wrong? I’ve done wrong, absolutely. In my youth I did wrong. I paid my debt to society,” Pierce said.