Former Rutland Resident Sentenced to Nine Months Home Detention for Destroying a Long Trail Shelter in Mendon by Lighting a Fire Inside It
Burlington, VT – The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont stated today that Judge Christina Reiss, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont, sentenced Justin Caissie of Manchester, New Hampshire, formerly of Rutland, Vermont, to nine months home detention for damaging property of the United States. Caissie previously pled guilty to this felony charge and prior to this case Caissie did not have a felony conviction. Judge Reiss also sentenced Caissie to three years supervised release and ordered him to pay restitution in the amount of $6,390 to the Forest Service.
According to court records, on the afternoon of March 2, 2011, Caissie started a fire on the wooden floor of the Tucker Johnson Trail Shelter on the Green Mountain National Forest. To feed the fire he tore boards off of the bunk beds. The shelter was located on the Long Trail just north of the intersection of the Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail in Mendon, VT and has no fireplace. Caissie stated he was not thinking clearly because he was high on methamphetamine at the time and he lit the fire to keep warm. Caissie called the Rutland City Fire department to report the fire but claimed he just came upon the fire while hiking in the area and did not, at that time, admit to starting it.
In its Sentencing Memorandum, the United States Attorney's Office stated that Caissie's deliberate and nonsensical actions destroyed a piece of Vermont on the Long Trail. The shelter, built in 1969, was a basic lean-to type trail shelter. This simplicity, however, does not undermine the fact that these shelters are iconic structures on the Long Trail that provide simple but welcome comfort from the elements to thousands of hikers that revere the Long Trail. Caissie's actions showed contempt for both the Long Trail and its users.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Forest Service with assistance from the Rutland City Fire Department. The United States is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Perella. Caissie is represented by Steven Barth of the Federal Public Defender's Office in Burlington.