Hells Angel Jury Hears About Land Clearing
Edward Shaughnessy of Gilford has been charged with two Class A misdemeanors alleging illegal filling of wetlands and altering terrain without a permit on property that extends off dead-end Fillmore Avenue. The property off White Oaks Road is a clubhouse for the Hells Angels and local law enforcement officials believe surrounding woodlands were being cleared to create a camping area for the group's members. A patch-wearing member of the Hells Angels, Shaughnessy claims his association with the motorcycle club has resulted in his being singled out for prosecution. He maintained outside of court that he has spent thousands of dollars on developing the property and has since obtained all the needed "after the fact" permits.
But Assistant Attorney General Lauren Noether, who prosecutes environmental crimes for the state, called a series of witnesses to testify in Belknap County Superior Court on Tuesday.
Allan Ketchum, the general manager for Nutter Enterprises Inc., based in Belmont, testified that he agreed to keep their Route 106 pit open during the late winter in 2005 to provide a variety of aggregate materials to Shaughnessy after he told them he was upgrading a woods road right-of-way on his property and would require a substantial amount of fill to finish the work.
A jury, now comprised of 12 women and two men, was seated Monday to hear the case that is expected to last three days.
Ori Ron of Swampscott, Mass., a real estate developer, testified that he purchased an approximately 100 acres off White Oaks Road in Laconia in 1994. The acreage abuts land owned by Black Oaks of Laconia LLC, that is the subject of the criminal case.
Ron told jurors his land listed under the name White Oaks Realty Trust was predominantly wooded with some wetland areas. He said he was contacted by the Belknap Count Sheriff's Department in the spring of 2005 inquiring whether he had any knowledge of a gravel road being developed on his property. In December 2004 he had received a letter from the City of Laconia's Assessing Office notifying them they had become aware that timber was being cut on his property and telling him that he needed to file an intent to cut and warning that he could face potential financial penalties. Ron testified that in response to the letter, he faxed a memo to the city notifying officials that he had not authorized anyone to cut timber on his property and that if the city observed any such activity occurring on his property to contact local police. In January 2005, Ron said he received a letter from Attorney Alex Bucannon of Nashua saying that he represented Black Oaks and notifying him that the limited liability company had a deeded easement across his land to White Oaks Road and expressing an interest in purchasing a portion of his property. During his testimony, Ron, a native of Israel, said he communicated with Bucannon a number of times and said his understanding was that the Black Oaks owners wanted to discuss with him the location of the easement, but said he never gave permission to cut timber on his property or construct the road on his land.
While Ron said he didn't give permission for the road to be built, he agreed he would have cooperated with such an effort had he been asked. He characterized the construction of some sections of the road as "being o.k.," but said others were "not o.k." He said he would like to retain his own expert to examine the road and determine what improvements needed to be made. He told jurors that he has no immediate plans to develop his own property that totals about 111 acres.
Under cross-examination by defense Attorney P. Scott Bratton, Ron testified that he knew there was a right-of-way across his property when he bought it. He testified that it was his understanding that such a right of way ran with the land and could not be "extinguished" by the owner.
Ron said Swampscott Police knocked on the door of his home to notify him to call (the Sgt.) Christopher Cost at the Belknap County Sheriff's Department. When Ron contacted Cost he asked Ron whether he had any knowledge of a road being built on his property. Ron recalled that he told Cost he did not, but did tell him that an easement gave the property behind him access to White Oaks Road.
Bratton worked to focus jurors on testimony he elicited from many of the state's witnesses that seemed to agree that the owner of an easement had the right to maintain it to keep it open for travel. His questioning prompted several witnesses to agree that cutting brush did not require that an intent to cut be filed or yield taxes to be paid.
Donald Thibeault, a forestry and land consultant, testified that he paid Shaughnessy to buy red oak saw logs that he removed from the property and that he filed a intent to cut with the city of Laconia that he witnessed Shaughnessy sign. Although the intent to cut was submitted, testimony from several witnesses including the city's assistant assessor Deb Derrick showed the required report of cut that is to be filed after the work is completed was never submitted. Derrick said the oak sold from the property was valued at $530 and that Black Oaks paid a yield tax of $1,060 including penalties for failing to file the report of cut. She said no intent to cut was ever filed on the White Oaks Realty Trust land or were any yield taxes paid.
William Nutter, who owns Nutter Enterprises, testified that he went to the Black Oaks property on one occasion and observed Shaughnessy operating a backhoe and smoothing aggregate that was being delivered by his company. He asked Shaughnessy for payment and received a check for more than $10,000. Ketchum, the firm's general manager, earlier testified that Shaughnessy signed checks bearing the Black Oaks LLC logo totaling more than $54,000 for an estimated 371 10-wheel dump truck loads of material including erosion stone, sand and mixed gravel.
Eric Mitchell of Bedford, a licensed land surveyor, testified that he entered into a contract with Shaughnessy to complete a boundary survey of the Black Oaks property, a topographical plan that detailed existing elevations on the site and to map the wetlands and research the deed to locate the right-of-way.
The trial is scheduled to resume on Thursday.
Source: The Citizen of Laconia, May 23, 2007.