By Eric Francis, Standard Correspondent
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — The Hartland man who had been accused of masterminding the brutal 2011 attacks on a pair of pet goats belonging to a state game warden was acquitted of all the charges facing him Friday afternoon.
Nick Ashline, 35, hugged family members and shook the hand of his Peter Decato, his defense attorney, after a Windsor County jury deliberated for just over three hours before returning a slate of “not guilty” verdicts for all five charges- three of acting as an accessory before the fact and two counts of attempting to obstruct justice.
Another man, 22-year-old Daniel Parry of West Windsor, admitted a year ago that he was the person who actually snuck onto Vermont Game Warden Steve Majeski’s property and slit the throats of the goats, killing one of them and severely injuring the other, but Parry had maintained that the only reason for the cruel attacks was because Ashline — who admitted to a long-standing dislike of the warden — had supposedly paid him to do it.
Ashline took the witness stand in his own defense this week and flatly denied that he had ever engaged in any conversation with Parry expressing a desire to have the warden’s pets killed — joking or otherwise.
Speaking after the verdict, defense attorney Decato said he believed the jury was faced with a choice of whether to believe witnesses who had very little to drink on the evening in question versus others who admitted to having had quite a bit of beer and — in at least one case — nearly a dozen Percocet pills. Decato said it appeared to him that the jury decided to go with the sober individual’s recollections of events.