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State v. Maine

Supreme Court of Maine

February 2, 2017


          Argued: December 15, 2016

         Reporter of Decisions

          Lauren Wille, Esq. (orally), DeGrinney Law Offices, Portland, for appellant Karl Maine

          Kathryn Loftus Slattery, District Attorney, Anne Marie Pazar, Asst. Dist. Atty., and Justina A. McGettigan, Asst. Dist. Atty. (orally), Prosecutorial District #1, Alfred, for appellee State of Maine

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, TABAR. and HJELM, JJ.

          JABAR, J.

         [¶1] Karl Maine appeals from a judgment entered by the Superior Court (York County, O'Neil, J.) following a jury verdict convicting him of one count of arson (Class A), 17-A M.R.S. § 802(1)(A) (2016). Maine argues on appeal that the trial court erred by admitting expert testimony concerning the cause of a fire that largely destroyed a diner run by Maine and by allowing an acquaintance of Maine to testify to statements made to Maine about how to start house fires, and that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support a guilty verdict. We affirm.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The jury could rationally have found the following facts beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Troy, 2014 ME 9, ¶ 3, 86 A.3d 591. In January 2013, Maine began leasing and operating Jake's Diner ("the diner") on Ossipee Trail in Limington. Aaron Sleeper owned the building housing the diner as well as a commercial building containing a grocery store-Sleeper's Supermarket ("the market")-located across a parking lot from the diner. Maine had a month-to-month lease and was therefore free to exit the lease at any time. He purchased groceries for the diner from the market, and included payment for the groceries in his monthly rent check. In January 2014, Maine was behind on rent by one month and owed Sleeper $541 for groceries. Maine also owed money to several utilities, including more than $1, 000 for propane deliveries and more than $900 for electrical service.

         [¶3] In addition to operating the diner, Maine held a job as a subcontractor for Lock & Load Property Services, a foreclosed property management company run by Catherine Ford. Ford knew that Maine was having financial troubles and she had paid his cell phone bill in December 2013 and January 2014. She had also personally purchased groceries for the diner when Maine was unable to do so. At some point before January 2014, Maine told Ford that he was "sick" of running the diner and was thinking about closing it down for the winter. Maine also told William Shaw, who owned an auction and yard sale business across the street from the diner, that business at the diner was slow and that he owed a lot of money to the market.

         [¶4] On the morning of February 12, 2014, per his usual routine, Maine arrived at the diner before 7:00 a.m. to do prep work for the day. His employees, a waitress and a cook, arrived to begin work at 7:00 a.m. Maine left at approximately 8:00 a.m. to work for Ford, who would meet him there in the morning before his shifts for Lock & Load. Maine and another subcontractor for Lock & Load left their vehicles in the diner parking lot for the day while they worked on a foreclosed property in New Hampshire. The waitress and the cook ran the diner, closing up at 2:00 p.m. Before leaving, they locked all the doors.

         [¶5] A security camera at the market that was pointed toward the diner captured Maine, Ford, and Ford's other subcontractor returning just before 5:00 p.m. Video from that camera shows Maine approaching the front door of the diner at 4:55 p.m., disappearing from view, and reappearing from the area of the front door approximately six minutes later. Maine then went to his truck-parked near the front of the diner-and returned to the entrance of the diner at 5:02 p.m., disappeared from view, reappeared from the front door area at approximately 5:03 p.m., and finally got into his truck and drove away. The video then depicts smoke emanating from the rear of the diner at approximately 5:05 p.m.

         [¶6] One of Sleeper's employees at the market noticed the smoke and alerted Sleeper, who called 9-1-1. Two engines from the fire department arrived at 5:13 p.m., and firefighters extinguished the blaze with water after breaking in the front door. Maine arrived about half an hour later and provided a statement to the Limington fire chief, who then called the Fire Marshal's Office to request an investigation into the cause of the fire.

         [¶7] Senior Investigator Mark Roberts of the Maine State Fire Marshal's Office responded to the scene of the fire at approximately 6:30 p.m. that evening. He interviewed Maine, who told Roberts that he had entered the diner only once after returning from New Hampshire, to collect receipts, and that he had been inside for less than one minute.

         [¶8] The next day, Roberts accompanied Senior Investigator Daniel Young, who was responsible for determining the origin and cause of the fire, to the scene. They both examined the diner, and Young took photos of the damage. Maine also returned to the scene, and again advised the ...

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