A state lawmaker who is a convicted felon and prohibited from possessing firearms has tagged deer, turkey and moose using firearms hunting permits issued by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, according to state records.

IFW records obtained by the Portland Press Herald show that Rep. Jeffrey Pierce, R-Dresden, has registered game he shot with rifles and shotguns on at least five occasions from 2001 to 2012.

Pierce was convicted of felony-level drug trafficking charges in 1983 for selling cocaine and marijuana to an undercover state trooper. His criminal record also includes several misdemeanor offenses between 1980 and 2006.

Both state and federal laws prohibit anyone convicted of a felony-level crime from possessing firearms. State law also makes it a crime to fraudulently obtain a firearms hunting permit or to falsify a hunting permit application, which expressly asks if an applicant is a convicted felon. In addition, state law prohibits felons from applying for firearms hunting permits, and the possession of a firearm by a felon is an additional felony-level crime under both state and federal law.

State records show that Pierce has purchased state firearms hunting licenses for years. He also has touted his A+ rating from the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine on social media, noting he is an “avid hunter.”

Pierce did not respond to a phone call seeking comment Friday. In an interview this week, he told the Press Herald that he did not own or possess any firearms and that he hunted under an archery permit.

WARDEN SERVICE IS INVESTIGATING

However, a review of state licensing records shows he holds no archery permit but does hold several permits for firearms hunting, including for deer, migratory waterfowl, bear and turkey. Pierce said he didn’t use the permits but bought them to support IFW, which is funded solely with permitting fees. Pierce denied having a firearms permit when asked about it, saying: “No, but archery is allowed, so – you know – I also have a fishing license, so – you know.”

IFW spokesman Mark Latti referred questions Friday to the Maine Warden Service, which enforces hunting laws. Friday evening, John MacDonald, the service’s spokesman said an investigation was ongoing and he could not comment further regarding Pierce specifically.

He said because there is no background check when purchasing a firearms permit it is not uncommon for people to misrepresent their status and he has personally arrested hunters with extensive felony convictions.

“If you become a felon, it isn’t something you forget about,” MacDonald said. “So most people that are buying these licenses they are intentionally trying to get away with something. I don’t know if that is the case here, but most of the time we find people trying to buy licenses it’s because a fair amount of time has gone by and they miss the opportunity to be able to hunt with a firearm.”

UNAWARE OF PIERCE’S RECORD

MacDonald said he couldn’t confirm whether Pierce had purchased firearms permits as that was part of the investigation the warden service was pursuing. He said wardens are concerned about encountering felons in the woods with firearms, but noted that the vast majority of hunters are following game regulations and the laws of Maine.

David Trahan, the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, said his organization did not endorse or support felons acquiring firearms hunting permits. He said he was unaware of Pierce’s record, but said if Pierce had illegally obtained firearms hunting permits, SAM’s board of directors would likely revoke his A+ ranking.

“We do not support or condone any behavior like that,” Trahan said Friday.

IFW records show that Pierce most recently registered a deer he shot with a .30-06 caliber hunting rifle, a common weapon for deer hunters, on Nov. 22, 2012, in the Sagadahoc County town of Phippsburg. Pierce also tagged a moose shot with a .30-06 rifle in Misery Gore Township, in Somerset County in October 2001. He also tagged deer killed in 2011 and 2001, and turkeys tagged in 2005. All were taken with firearms.

Possession of a firearm by a felon is a Class C crime in Maine, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $5,000. Pierce also could face Class D and E misdemeanor charges for attesting that he was not a felon on his hunting permit applications. Those crimes are punishable by up to a year in prison and a $2,000 fine or six months in county jail and fine of $1,000, respectively. Possession of a firearm by a felon is also against federal law, and if the U.S. Attorney’s were to assume jurisdiction, the maximum punishment could be as much as 10 years in prison.

PERMITS FOR SEASON THAT BEGINS SATURDAY

The Maine Democratic Party disclosed Pierce’s criminal record in a news release last week that included records on his drug trafficking and other convictions. He was the only sitting legislator among four Republicans named in the release as legislative candidates in the Nov. 6 election with criminal histories. The other candidates – some of whom are no longer running, were convicted of assaults, including for domestic violence.

There are about 175 Democrats running for the Legislature, but the party said it did not do background checks to see if any of its members had criminal histories.

State records also show that Pierce, who is seeking reelection to House District 53 and running to be a leader of the House Republican caucus, applied for and was awarded two additional “any deer” permits for the season that begins Saturday. The permits are allowed under the state’s hunting permit system in certain wildlife management districts.

Latti, the IFW spokesman, said Friday that those any-deer permits and bonus permits are awarded only to those who already have a regular firearms hunting license for deer.

In an interview after Democrats publicized his criminal record last week, Pierce said it was “unfair” for his drug trafficking convictions from the 1980s to be highlighted.

“This should be a story about a troubled youth, that had been going through some adversity in his life: A lot of people don’t know my mother was dying at this time and a lot of young people out of high school turn to drugs and alcohol,” he said.

Pierce said his life since then has been focused on public and community service, and that was not being reflected in media reports of his past convictions.

The first day for the regular firearms hunting season for deer starts Saturday for Maine residents.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 713-6720 or at:

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