Photo by Eric Francis
Nick Ashline, of Hartland, hugs his son and daughter moments after a jury acquitted him of all charges related to an attack on a pair of goats belonging to a game warden in October 2011.
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — A Hartland man accused of ordering a brutal attack on a state game warden’s two goats was acquitted Friday of all charges at the end of a three-day trial.
A Windsor County jury deliberated for nearly four hours before clearing Nick Ashline, 35, of two counts of obstructing justice and three counts of acting as an accessory before the fact in the death of one goat and the maiming of another.
There was plenty of evidence, including Ashline’s own testimony, that made it clear he had developed an intense personal dislike toward the game warden, Steve Majeski, over the years.
Majeski had made it known he considered Ashline a prime suspect in a series of deerjackings. The state’s claim that Ashline orchestrated the attacks on Majeski’s goats to “warn him off” hinged on which witnesses could be believed.
West Windsor resident Daniel Parry, 22, has already accepted responsibility for sneaking into Majeski’s barn in Brownsville in October 2011 and slitting the animals’ throats with a 10-inch hunting knife.
Parry received a largely deferred sentence and a stint in drug treatment after he said he’d consumed more than a dozen beers and nearly as many Percocets that evening. He testified this week that Ashline put him up to the attack and offered to pay him for it.
Parry said Ashline drove him and several other men in his pickup truck out to Majeski’s property and then dropped him off for the purpose of “getting at” Majeski.
The other three witnesses in the pickup truck that evening gave a variety of reasons for the expedition and said Parry wasn’t even added to the outing until the last second, countering the theory that there was a plot in advance.
When the jury’s verdict was announced, a jubilant Ashline hugged family members who crowded around him.
“I feel bad about the goats,” Ashline’s attorney Peter Decato said after his client’s acquittal. “I’d be upset if anybody hurt my cat.”
He added, “The choice for the jury came down to ‘Do we believe the guys in the front seat who had very little to drink that night or (do we believe) the guys in the back seat who were clearly intoxicated.’”
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