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Jury splits verdict in case involving disputed Frenchville road

FRENCHVILLE, Maine — A superior court jury handed down a split verdict on April 24 in a case against a man accused of plowing over a portion of gravel road in a dispute with Frenchville town officials.

Following a two day trial that started Monday in Caribou Superior Court, jurors found Bruce Ouellette, 45, of Madawaska not guilty of reckless conduct, but guilty of aggravated criminal mischief and obstructing government administration.

Ouellette is scheduled to be sentenced on June 5 and remains free on bail.

Police charged Ouellette after they say he used farm equipment to plow up a portion of Pelletier Avenue in Frenchville on Oct. 31. 2016.

The roughly one-mile long unpaved section of Pelletier Avenue has been at the center of controversy for more than a year regarding whether it is a private or public road.

Ouellette and other family members, including his brother Calvin Ouellette, have said that part of the road is located on their farm property. The town, meanwhile, has been maintaining the road, including plowing it in the winter, as though it were a public way for 20 years.

Just three families live on the section in question, although other area residents also use the road to travel between Frenchville and Madawaska. According to the Maine Department of Transportation, daily traffic averages out to about 200 vehicles per day over the year.

Bruce Ouellette plowed over part of the road as the town was preparing to make improvements, including paving the road.

According to court records, an Aroostook County grand jury indicted Ouellette in February 2017 on the charge of aggravated criminal mischief for allegedly “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” damaging a portion of the town road. The jurors indicted him on the reckless conduct charge because he allegedly “created a substantial risk of serious bodily injury” to a passerby “with the use of a dangerous weapon, a steel pin.” The document does not specify what Ouellette did with it.

The grand jury also charged him with obstructing government administration for interfering “by force, violence, or intimidation or by a physical act” with public officials carrying out their official functions.

Ouellette pleaded not guilty to all of the charges in April 2017 and requested a jury trial.

Bruce Ouellette’s attorney, Toby Jandreau of Fort Kent, could not be reached for comment following Tuesday’s verdicts.

After his brother’s actions stopped the town from paving that part of the road, Calvin Ouellette filed a civil suit on behalf of the family against the town over ownership of the land it sits on.

Town Manager Ryan E. Pelletier said recently that while a settlement agreement in the civil case with the Ouellettes was finalized by a judge last year, the town is “not quite happy with it” and attorneys for the community are still reviewing the judge’s ruling.

“We have hired Eaton Peabody out of Bangor to look over it,” he said. “There are some differences of opinion over land easements. The final product is not what we talked about, in our opinion.”

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