‘North Pond Hermit’ Doesn’t Owe Police

     PORTLAND, Maine (CN) – A man who spent 27 years living in the backwoods of Maine will not have to repay police for repairing a private road they destroyed hauling stolen goods from his campsite, the state’s high court ruled.
     In a 4-2 majority opinion written by Justice Jeffrey Hjelm, the Maine Supreme Court tossed a portion of Christopher T. Knight’s sentence from a lower court that would have had the convicted burglar reimburse the state police.
     Knight was arrested at his remote campsite near Rome, Maine, after committing numerous thefts and burglaries at other homes in the area. For almost three decades, Knight had amassed a collection of ill-gotten gains and used them to support his hermit life style.
     He has been referred to as the “North Pond hermit” in local media reports.
     In order to gather evidence and seize Knight’s stolen goods, the Maine State Police, or MSP, made numerous trips to Knight’s camp, effectively destroying a private way that was used by other parties.
     The MSP spent about $1,125 repairing the roadway, which they then attempted to recoup from Knight as part of his court-ordered restitution, which also included $1,894 to the “victims of charged and uncharged crimes.”
     Ultimately, the Maine Supreme Court determined that the only individuals or entities eligible for restitution are those who were direct victims of Knight. In this case, the MSP does not qualify.
     “Here, the MSP is not a victim of any of Knight’s charged conduct—namely, burglaries and thefts—and is therefore not entitled to an order of restitution on that basis,” Hjelm wrote in the Aug. 4 opinion. “Further, the owner of the property traversed by the MSP is not a ‘victim’ of any of the crimes for which Knight was convicted because, as the parties agree, Knight did not commit any of the crimes for which he was convicted against the property owner.”
     In a dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Leigh Saufley and Justice Donald Alexander argued that the costs to repair the road constitute an environmental clean-up cost, which under Maine law would appropriately fall on the criminal.
     “If one or several of the victims had undertaken, on their own, recovery of the items stolen from them and found at Knight’s hideout, the costs to repair the road, if paid by the victims as a necessary cost of recovery of the items, would be payable as restitution,” the dissent states. “The state, acting in place of the victims, is in the same position and entitled to recover the same costs that victims otherwise might have incurred for recovery of the stolen items.”

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