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Joyce Endee

Ward Bird freed

Sentence commuted by Governor and Executive Council

February 04, 2011
MOULTONBORO — The Governor and Executive Council have commuted Ward Bird's sentence, allowing him to go free.

Gov. John Lynch and the Executive Council made the decision on Wednesday following a pardon hearing the day before.

Bird was sentenced to a minimum of three years in prison following a 2006 incident in which Christine Harris reported he threatened her with a gun to leave his property.

The pardon hearing was held the day before the decision was made, with supporters gathering in Council chambers. The Governor and Council heard testimony from Bird as well as current Carroll County Attorney Tom Dewhurst, attorney Mark Sisti, Bird's wife Virginia Bird, and others, including those speaking in favor of Bird and giving testimony against Harris' reputation. Harris was not at the hearing, as Melissa Smith, a victim's advocate for the Carroll County Attorney's office, said she feared for her safety.

Bird emphatically denied ever pointing or waving a gun at Harris, saying he was talking it out before reentering his house to make sure it was not loaded.

The Governor and Council discussed the matter following its meeting on Wednesday.

Executive Councilor Ray Burton said the Council moved to pardon Bird, but Gov. Lynch expressed discomfort with granting a full pardon and indicated he would veto such a measure.

"He made that clear and felt the judicial system had worked," Burton said.

The Council voted unanimously in favor of pardoning Bird, but Lynch did veto it. Another motion was made to commute Bird's sentence to time served, which passed unanimously by the Council and was approved by Lynch.

Burton said he made his decision based on the testimony and evidence presented, noting that Bird was not put on the stand at his original trial and matters related to Harris' character were not brought up in court.

"The Governor and Council did its job," Burton said. "We did it well and that was the result that came out."

Bird will still have a felony conviction on his record; one of the restrictions will be that he cannot own a gun.

Bird was released from Carroll County Prison around 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, over five hours after the decision was made.

The Free Ward Bird Twitter page described a flash rally with around 60 supporters held in his honor.

"Only he surprised us!" one entry reads. "He and his family walked right through our rally! Hugs, laughs and tears abounded!"

Signs, such as those in front of Yikes! Gallery in Center Harbor and Century 21 in Moultonboro that had once borne "Free Ward Bird" messages, had messages by Thursday that Bird had been freed.

Yikes! co-owner Diane Campbell spoke of Bird during the kick-off for the One Book, One Community project on Thursday night.

"Our community is wonderful for many reasons, one of those reasons is the fact Ward Bird is now home," Campbell said.

Moultonboro Selectman and State Representative Betsey Patten described attending the Tuesday hearing to her fellow selectmen during their meeting on Thursday.

"I'm just so glad Ward is home," Patten said.

Patten said a bill she sponsored to allow property owners to show a gun to protect their properties and not be charged with criminal threatening will soon come up in legislation.

A more detailed story will be printed in next week's Meredith News.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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