Andrew Airey

Andrew Airey is pictured at his Nov. 5 trial in Conway District Court on five misdemeanor counts of willful concealment. Airey, 39, who has been blind for a decade, wore his eSight device while displaying to the court another electronic tool that he also uses to “see.”

CONWAY — A judge has found a blind shopper guilty of willfully concealing a can of corned beef hash and a bath towel while using the self-scan checkout last year at the Walmart in North Conway.

Andrew Airey, 39, was cleared of three misdemeanor charges of taking a frozen pizza, toothbrushes and oyster crackers.

Conway District Court Judge Michael H. Garner, who presided over Airey’s Nov. 5 bench trial, released his order last week.

Airey is to be sentenced on Dec. 10. Garner said in his order that the hearing may be waived if Airey and the Conway Police Department agree upon what he called “an appropriate sentence,” adding that the court “will likely ratify it.”

Airey became completely blind a decade ago as the result of juvenile macular degeneration.

At his trial, Airey and his attorneys argued that Walmart’s self-checkout terminals were unfriendly to the disabled and that the married father of four must wear binocular glasses and use devices to help him “see.”

The defense team said the Conway man had no intention of taking anything from the Walmart without paying for it.

Matthew Colella, a loss-prevention officer for the North Conway Walmart, testified that he observed videos of Airey bagging some items without scanning them on five separate occasions between May 4, 2018 and July 3, 2018. Airey was taken into custody at the store on the July 3 visit.

On the last occasion, Colella said Airey was determined to have 37 items, valued at almost $148, that had not been scanned and that he did not pay for before leaving the Walmart.

In his defense, Airey said he heard the audible note that signaled an item had been successfully scanned, but did not see the red or green lights on the checkouts that indicated the start and completion of the process.

Conway police prosecutor William Strong told Garner at Airey’s trial that there were “far too many mis-scans” by Airey to dismiss them as accidental.

Garner said Airey, who has no criminal record, has the right to appeal his conviction.

Thursday, January 23, 2020