Maine man charged in 'elver' theft in Hampton Falls facing assault charges for striking conservation officer
BRENTWOOD — A man accused of illegally poaching young eels in Hampton Falls was indicted on simple assault charges for allegedly hitting a conservation officer repeatedly while being taken into custody, according to prosecutors.
Matthew Kinney, 30, of Bremen, Maine, is facing in Rockingham County Superior Court three counts of simple assault and possession of a controlled drug stemming from his arrest on May 3, 2013.
Kinney and his brother, Justin, were arrested by Fish & Game officers who were acting on a tip that two people were “dipping” for young eels, known as elvers, along the Hampton Falls River that day around 5 a.m. near Route 1.
The officers found the two men leaving the area with eels.
When confronted, Matthew Kinney allegedly struck Conservation Officer Josiah Towne three times in the chest while being handcuffed, according to indictments. Kinney was also found to illegally have the drug Lorazepam prosecutors said.
During the struggle with Towne, Kinney got pepper sprayed and fell into the Hampton Falls River before fleeing into nearby marshland, Fish & Game officials said.
Police from Kensington, Seabrook and Hampton and a New Hampshire State Police helicopter helped conservation officers with searching for Kinney, but ultimately a state police dog tracked him to a rented room nearby, Fish & Game officials said.
Justin Kinney, of Vernon, Maine, had also fled but was apprehended a short time later.
The two brothers were each charged in district court with taking American eels less six inches in length and taking American eels without a harvest permit.
The new charges against Matthew Kinney returned by a Rockingham County grand jury are all felonies, each punishable by 3 ½ to 7 years in state prison.
Fish & Game officials say they began cracking down on those who have been trying to illegally take elvers from New Hampshire waters in response to the number of poachers going after migrating young eels. The number of incidents is being driven by the price they bring in foreign markets such as Asia, Fish & Game officials said. Estimates have ranged from $2,000 to $3,000 per pound.