An Acton man who was falsely accused of reckless conduct and criminal threatening five years ago has been awarded $90,000 in damages from a lawsuit he filed against the two men who made the accusations.

U.S. District Judge John Woodcock ruled this week that John Charron was a victim of “classic malicious prosecution” when he was arrested in March 2016.

York County sheriff’s deputies were called to settle a disturbance on Langley Shores Road, a gravel stretch near the eastern side of Great East Lake in Acton. Someone called police shortly before 11 p.m. to report that cars were peeling tires, and people were yelling.

Upon investigating, deputies determined that a feud between Charron and two young neighbors had “boiled over,” and that Charron drove at the two men in his plow truck, “striking the victim’s vehicle with the plow blade going over the hood” of their Pontiac Sunfire. The men both told police they were afraid Charron might harm them.

John Charron of Acton in March 2016.  Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Charron was arrested and spent the night in jail.

The next day, he spoke to a Press Herald reporter outside his home and denied he did anything wrong. He said that the other men, identified in court documents as Christopher Moss and Eric Pilvelait, initiated the confrontation and that they crashed into the back of his truck.

He pointed to his plow, which appeared not to have any scratches or car paint on it. He then pointed to the back of the truck, where he said the car actually hit, and showed broken glass, dents and paint marks on the rear bumper.

The charges against Charron were later dropped, but he filed a lawsuit in 2018 against both men and the York County deputies who arrested him.

In his complaint, Charron talked about the “restless night” he spent in the York County Jail and about having to submit to random bail checks at his home after his release. Charron also said the allegation affected his business – he’s a self-employed tree removal expert – and harmed his romantic prospects.

Judge Woodcock’s decision cleared the deputies of any wrongdoing, even while acknowledging the failures in their investigation, but not the men whose false statements led to Charron’s arrest.

“The utter falsity and extreme seriousness of these allegations establish Mr. Moss and Mr. Pilvelait acted with malice and without probable cause,” Woodcock wrote. “Mr. Moss and Mr. Pilvelait’s intent to shift criminal responsibility for the Sunfire’s demise onto Mr. Charron and away from their own acts, which they may have committed while under the influence of alcohol, further supports the Court’s finding that they acted with malice.”

Woodcock further wrote that, “By levying false accusations, Mr. Moss and Mr. Pilvelait weaponized the legal process to deprive Mr. Charron of these fundamental liberty interests.”

Charron had asked for an award of $500,000 in his initial lawsuit, but the judge settled on $65,000 in compensatory damages and $25,000 in punitive damages.

In an interview Thursday, Charron said he’s pleased with the judgment, even though there’s no guarantee that he’ll see any of that $90,000 if the men can’t pay.

He also said he’s disappointed that the men weren’t charged with making false statements and even more upset that the sheriff’s deputies faced no repercussions for their faulty investigation.

“They wouldn’t even take evidence from us,” Charron said. “It’s like they didn’t want to acknowledge they were wrong.”

Charron’s attorney, Greg McCullough, is appealing the part of the decision that granted the sheriff’s deputies qualified immunity.

“The police were supposed to be the check here and they failed miserably,” he said.

John Wall, an attorney for the York County deputies who were named in the lawsuit, declined to comment on the judgment.


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