BATH, MAINE >> The driver involved in a fatal hayride crash nearly two years ago was acquitted Tuesday of a reckless conduct charge.
Jurors in David Brown's trial delivered the verdict after listening to several days of testimony about whether he consciously disregarded risks during the Halloween-themed hayride.
Brown, 56, of South Paris, was charged after the October 2014 crash at Harvest Hill Farms in Mechanic Falls claimed the life of 17-year-old Cassidy Charette and injured more than 20 others.
Prosecutors contended Brown knew the brakes were faulty on the 1979 Jeep he was driving, but Brown testified that he had no prior indication of any mechanical problems that night.
An attorney representing Charette's family said she was disappointed in the outcome but said the civil lawsuit against Brown and farm's owner will move forward.
"The proof necessary to find a person guilty of a crime is very different than to hold him responsible in a civil lawsuit for failing to follow basic safety rules," said attorney Jodi Nofsinger. "From the information we already have about the hayride tragedy, we believe our wrongful death case is strong and that all the defendants will be held accountable."
The Gauntlet Night Ride of Horror featured a hay wagon pulled by the Jeep. The wagon went out of control after the Jeep's brakes failed, and riders were tossed into trees.
Brown was among the injured.
Allan Lobozzo, Brown's attorney, told jurors that the driver was unaware of any problems and that it was the mechanic's responsibility, not Brown's, to ensure the Jeep was in good condition. The mechanic is due to stand trial on the same charge at a later date.
But Deputy District Attorney James Andrews said the brakes had been long compromised before they failed and "any reasonable person should have seen it coming." The emergency brake was broken, the back brakes didn't work, and the brake fluid was contaminated, he said.
The criminal trial was moved from Androscoggin County to Sagadahoc County because of pre-trial publicity.