MACHIAS – He’s back.
Meddybemps junkyard dealer Harry Smith, 66, made his first appearance in Washington County Superior Court Friday, but it’s been years since he was last seen in Maine.
Smith, who was convicted of hazardous waste crimes and who spent the better part of last year and this year in a Massachusetts jail awaiting extradition to Maine, faces two counts of failure to appear.
Smith was supposed to report to jail in 2003, but left town. He spent the next two years on the lam, finally being apprehended in November 2005 working at a salvage business near Everett, Mass. That same year Smith, who was out on post-conviction bail when he left town, was added to Maine’s Most Wanted list. The junkyard dealer spent months fighting extradition. In the past few days, he returned voluntarily to the state.
In court Friday, his attorney Norman Toffolon of Machias explained that Smith fought extradition because the jail in Massachusetts had better health care than jails in Maine. He said Massachusetts spends a $1 million a week on their convicts. While in jail, Smith was able to have a cataract removed. He also received care for a mini stroke, heart problems and diabetes.
Toffolon recommended that bail for Smith be set at $5,000, an amount Smith’s family could afford. He said his client had not been convicted of a violent crime and that most of his problems were with the Department of Environmental Protection. The Machias attorney also pointed out that Smith’s original sentence would be up in a few weeks and said it would be inappropriate to put him in jail until February when the court would deal with these latest charges. “It’s not right to keep him in jail,” the attorney argued.
Smith’s daughter, Dawn, who lives in Meddybemps, said she would see to it that her father abided by any and all bail conditions and said she would call police immediately if he were to leave town again.
But District Attorney Michael Povich did not buy the defense attorney’s arguments. He said that in 1975, Smith was sentenced for receiving stolen property valued at $150,000.
Povich said that Smith’s behavior was an affront to the judicial system. He asked that bail be set at $150,000 real estate or $50,000 cash.
Judge Joyce Wheeler disagreed, setting bail at $100,000 real estate or $25,000 cash. She said that although she knew that his daughter meant well, she could not keep Smith from leaving again if he wanted to. “The integrity of the system ensures that he appears in court,” she said.
Since the 1980s, the junkyard, owned by Smith and other family members, has been operated on four parcels of land along Route 191 and Route 214 in Meddybemps. Smith stored on the properties some of the military supplies and equipment he purchased from the Department of Defense.
The land was placed on the federal Superfund list more than 20 years ago, but cleanup and remediation have been delayed.
Between 2001 and 2003, the DEP spent $2.8 million to remove the most hazardous material from the site. The DOD agreed to reimburse the state in a 2003 consent decree. The DOD also has agreed to pay for a feasibility study and remedial investigation to determine additional costs for cleaning up the Washington County junkyard.