PORTLAND – A hunter from Windham who is charged with manslaughter for fatally shooting another hunter pleaded not guilty Thursday.
William Briggs, 61, shot Peter Kolofsky, 46, in Sebago on Nov. 5. Briggs was deer hunting with his brother, while Kolofsky was hunting alone in woods not far from Kolofsky’s home.
In court Thursday, Briggs stood next to his attorney, his eyes slightly downcast, as Superior Court Justice Roland Cole read the charge aloud.
During the brief arraignment, Briggs said only, “Yes, your honor” and “Not guilty, your honor” when Cole asked whether he understood the charge and how he would plead.
Briggs, who works as a supervisor for Central Maine Power Co., remains free on personal recognizance. Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea asked that Briggs be barred from hunting, a condition that Briggs’ attorney, Peter DeTroy, accepted.
Five people — either family members or friends of Kolofsky — attended the proceeding, accompanied by a victim advocate. They declined to be interviewed.
Briggs, through his attorney, also declined to comment. DeTroy said Briggs has been distraught.
“Knowing the family was there was really brutal for him because he feels sick about it,” DeTroy said after the arraignment.
Kolofsky was shot in woods that are accessible by a dirt road off Hogfat Hill Road in Sebago. DeTroy has said that Briggs, who had separated from his brother, fired twice after seeing what he believed to be antlers. The second shot hit Kolofsky, who was wearing blaze orange as required by state law.
Briggs and his brother called for help. Kolofsky, a married father of two, was pronounced dead at the scene. All three men were experienced hunters.
Hunters commonly use antlers for “rattling” to attract deer to an area. Rattling mimics that clash of deer antlers during the rut.
Maine law requires hunters to positively identify their targets before shooting. The basis for the identification is an unobstructed view of the target’s head and shoulders.
The target-identification law took effect in 1991. It was prompted by the fatal shooting in 1988 of Karen Wood, who was in her backyard in Hermon, hanging clothes on a line. The hunter, Donald Rogerson of Bangor, was acquitted of manslaughter in the case.
But the death of a mother of 1-year-old twins in her own backyard — rather than a hunter out in the woods — changed the attitude toward hunting fatalities in Maine, said Paul Jacques, who was a state legislator at the time and joined the effort to define prudent hunting in Maine law.
“Most of the sportsmen I knew said, ‘Hey, if that’s what we need to do, that’s what we need to do,’ ” said Jacques, a former deputy commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. The crime involves criminal negligence or reckless behavior.
In 2006, Timothy Bean, a hunter from South Paris, was charged with manslaughter in the death of Megan Ripley, who was 18 when she was shot in a wooded area near her family’s farmhouse.
Bean pleaded guilty in 2007 and was sentenced to two years in prison, with all but 30 days suspended.
Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: