BIDDEFORD – The jury that convicted a former owner of a redemption center in Kittery did not get proper instruction and was not shown sufficient evidence to convict him of stealing more than $10,000 in beverage container refunds and handling fees from manufacturers and distributors, his lawyer told the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Tuesday.

A jury convicted Thomas Woodard last year of theft by deception for a scheme at Green Bee Redemption that involved more than 100,000 out-of-state beverage containers from 2008 to 2010. New Hampshire has no bottle law, and in Massachusetts, there are no deposits on some beverages, including bottled water and non-carbonated drinks.

Woodard was tried at the same time as his wife, Megan, but by a different jury. Thomas Woodard was sentenced to 21 months of incarceration with all but 21 days suspended. Megan Woodard was acquitted.

It was Maine’s first criminal trial involving bottle redemption fraud in recent memory, if not ever, according to the prosecutor.

Richard Grundy, Thomas Woodard’s lawyer, argued Tuesday about the lack of direct evidence that the beverage containers were not redeemable in Maine. He noted that a prosecution witness, a representative of distributors, testified that she didn’t know whether their products were sold in New Hampshire.

“They needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the bottles were purchased from a state other than Maine,” he said during oral arguments held at Biddeford High School as part of the court’s annual fall visits to schools.

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During the trial, the prosecution argued that the Woodards set up satellite redemption centers at the SportsZone in Derry, N.H., and at an employee’s home in Gloucester, Mass.

Justice Andrew Mead questioned why the jury, when presented with evidence about a large quantity of bottles at the SportsZone, should not assume that some of the bottles were not from Maine.

Grundy said that while that assumption could meet the standard for a civil trial, it is nowhere near the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard for a criminal conviction.

Grundy said the case warranted more than the standard instructions that were provided to the jury.

Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin said a jury could infer that Woodard knew the bottles weren’t from Maine for a number of reasons, including the truckloads of containers from outside the state, checks to the men in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, and cellphone contacts.

Robbin said that without Woodard, those truckloads would not have been coming into Maine.

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“You had to have a conscious purpose to engage in that conduct,” she said.

 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: AnnKimPPH

 


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