A man who shot another man three times in a Newport store parking lot Dec. 12 last year will not be prosecuted by the Penobscot County District Attorney’s Office, prompting the victim to seek civil charges.

District Attorney Marianne Lynch said Friday her office reviewed the case, which she said Newport Police Department and state police investigated thoroughly.

“We determined we couldn’t meet our burden of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Lynch said in a phone interview.

She said she could not release any information about why her office decided not to charge Brian Duplisea, the shooter. She also would not release any information police presented to her office in the case, because Duplisea is not being prosecuted.

Prosecutors are allowed by law to use “prosecutorial discretion” in deciding whether a case should be brought to court, which Lynch might have done in this case.

The shooting occurred at 6:15 p.m. Dec. 12 outside One Bear’s One Stop convenience store and gas station on Moosehead Trail. It was prompted by a “domestic-type issue,” Newport police Chief Leonard Macdaid said at the time.

He said that during the confrontation, Duplisea shot the victim three times and the victim crawled to the store. Macdaid did not release the victim’s name. Duplisea remained at the scene and was there when police arrived. He was arrested and charged with class C reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon, a felony, and taken to the Penobscot County Jail in Bangor.

Ralph McLaughlin, who was shot three times outside a store in Newport on Dec. 12, 2018, said he plans to discuss his case with lawyers at Rudman Winchell in Bangor after the Penobscot and Piscataquis counties district attorney declined to prosecute the case.

The identity of the victim, Ralph McLaughlin, came to light when he contacted the Morning Sentinel on Thursday, wanting to talk about the case. After the shooting, McLaughlin was taken to Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, where he was taken into surgery and spent six days in the hospital.

The question is not whether Duplisea, 34, of Newport, shot McLaughlin, then 27, of Hartland; but whether the district attorney’s office thought it could prove beyond a reasonable doubt the charge of reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon.

The shooting by Duplisea is not disputed, according to Macdaid. Police take the use of deadly force seriously, and if a gun violation occurs in the future, police will act exactly as they did in this case, Macdaid said Friday in a phone interview. He said officers will assess the situation and if they think it is justified, they will arrest the person and take him or her to jail.

“There was definitely deadly force,” Macdaid said. “He shot the person three times. My main job as police chief is to protect and serve, make sure people are safe. When someone shoots a person and uses deadly force, that constitutes a major problem, in my book.”

Like Lynch, Macdaid said Newport and state police conducted a thorough investigation and put in a lot of hours on the case. They gathered all the evidence and reports and victim statements and sent them to the District Attorney’s Office for prosecution, according to Macdaid.

He said he has faith in Lynch, who was elected district attorney last year after having been deputy DA, and thinks she will do a good job as district attorney.

“I just can’t answer why they made this decision,” he said. “I really don’t know all the ins and outs.”

Macdaid said he could not release information police sent to the DA’s office, citing Maine law that says the information remains private if no one is prosecuted.

Attempts to reach Duplisea on Friday by phone were unsuccessful. He did not respond to a Facebook message seeking comment.

‘LET THE EVIDENCE DECIDE’

McLaughlin, now 28, said in a phone interview Thursday he can’t understand why the District Attorney’s Office is declining to prosecute the case, and he has an appointment Tuesday with lawyers to discuss a civil case. In a civil case, a person files suit against another person; whereas in a criminal case, the government files suit against a person.

McLaughlin said Duplisea had been scheduled to appear Thursday in a Bangor court, but that McLaughlin’s victim’s advocate told him the DA’s office and the prosecutor told McLaughlin not to attend. McLaughlin contends Duplisea acted recklessly with a dangerous weapon when he shot him and that the DA’s office should have prosecuted the case.

Newport police Chief Leonard Macdaid was involved in the investigation of a shooting outside Bear’s One Stop store in Newport on Dec. 12, 2018. Even though Penobscot and Piscataquis counties District Attorney Marianne Lynch declined to prosecute the case, she praised the investigation carried out by the Newport Police Department, aided by the Maine State Police.

“They’re not taking it as seriously as it needs to be taken,” McLaughlin said. “Let the judge decide that. Let the jury decide that. Let the evidence decide that.”

McLaughlin said that, before the shooting incident Dec. 12, he never had met and did not know Duplisea.

“He was cheating on his girlfriend with my girlfriend back in November, and I found out the beginning of December — December second or third,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin was upset by the affair, and when he saw Duplisea on Dec. 12 in Newport, he followed him to the store parking lot, he said.

McLaughlin, who said he did not have a weapon himself, struck Duplisea “square in the face,” but he doesn’t think it hurt him.

“He got out and I got out, we exchanged words and I threw one, single punch,” he said. “He did go down. He turned right around and went in his truck and got the gun.”

Duplisea shot McLaughlin in the right leg with a .45 caliber handgun, immobilizing him, and then shot him in the abdomen and again in the right leg, according to McLaughlin, who said he remained conscious the entire time and was in terrible pain.

“They rushed me into surgery and had to take part of my liver off,” he said. “I’ve still got one bullet in my leg.”

McLaughlin said he was in the hospital six days. He doesn’t remember what he said to Duplisea before he struck him, and he doesn’t remember what Duplisea said to him, he said. When the initial confrontation occurred, Duplisea was 6 or 8 feet away from his truck where the gun was, according to McLaughlin.

McLaughlin, who works at the Fairfield Antiques Mall, said he is recovering from his bullet wounds and he and his girlfriend are trying to work things out since the traumatic shooting.

“Everyone thought I was going to die. They thought I wasn’t going to make it,” he said.

McLaughlin said he has had no trouble with the law except for a marijuana possession charge several years ago.

He returned to his job Tuesday and is working only half days, but his leg bothers him a lot, he said.

Bear’s One Stop at 80 Moosehead Trail is a Sunoco gas station and store. At the scene Dec. 12, state police cruisers with blue lights flashing were stationed at both entrances to the business.

Police worked at the scene in temperature that dipped into the single digits. Yellow crime scene tape was tied to a gas pump and stretched to the building. Two large pickup trucks, one light-colored and one dark, were parked in front of the store.

‘PROSECUTORIAL DISCRETION’

Contacted Friday, Steve McCausland, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, said he did not have information about the shooting investigation, which state police worked on.

“Although we did assist Newport PD the night of the incident, it is their case and it was going to be prosecuted by the district attorney’s office,” McCausland said Friday in an email. “So your only two sources that could give you some information on this are the PD or the DA’s office. I don’t have anything on it.”

Jim Burke, clinical professor law at University of Maine School of Law, said Friday that information gathered in an investigation into criminal behavior that does not result in a case going forward in court is not made public, as releasing it is unfair to those involved.

“It only becomes public if it goes to court,” he said.

He cited as an example a person who calls another and after the call claims he was sexually harassed. An ensuing investigation into the alleged harasser’s life reveals information in his past that he is not proud of, but meanwhile, the district attorney’s office decides not to prosecute the case.

“It would be wrong for that (information) to be publicized,” Burke said.

He said that while he does not know any details of the Newport shooting case, he guesses there is an issue involving self-defense that attorneys felt raised enough reasonable doubt so as not to prosecute.

As for Lynch’s decision not to do so, Burke cited the legal term “prosecutorial discretion” when describing why someone decides not to charge.

“That means a prosecutor should exercise her discretion as to whether or not the case should be properly brought to court,” Burke said, “and if the prosecutor herself has a reasonable doubt as to whether a crime was committed, she should exercise her discretion and not bring the case. It has nothing to do with ‘Did John shoot Joe?’ All it says is, the prosecutor, having gathered all the evidence and looked at it, did not feel she could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed a crime.”

Burke, who has been a lawyer since 1976, practiced law in Lewiston 30 years and has taught at the law school since 2002, said he thinks prosecutorial discretion is not used enough.

“It should be used. If she (Lynch) did exercise her discretion here, that is a good thing. It is not surprising. This is what they’re supposed to do, and if they do it, the information they gather is not made public.”

Burke said that in a civil case, such as what McLaughlin plans to pursue, lawyers do their own discovery and investigation; and if the case goes to trial, they would present evidence in court, and that is when the evidence becomes public.

McLaughlin said he plans to meet Tuesday with lawyers from the Rudman Winchell law firm in Bangor. One of the lawyers he said he is to meet with, Allison Economy, did not return immediately a phone call placed to her office Friday seeking comment.

Steve Burlock, assistant district attorney in Lynch’s office, handled the shooting case and was in the unified court Thursday in Bangor where McLaughlin said Duplisea also was.

Meanwhile, Lynch, who was not present, made the decision not to prosecute after reviewing all the evidence in the case.

“I think that the Newport Police Department, in conjunction with Maine State Police, did an outstanding job investigating this case and I have nothing but praise for the work they did,” she said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

 


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