Town employee charged with defacing property

Clerk magistrate issues criminal complaint over damage to neighbor's lawn.

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Edgartown Shellfish Constable Paul Bagnall, seated foreground, is facing a property defacement charge following a magistrate's hearing.

Edgartown Shellfish Constable Paul Bagnall is being charged with defacing property after he allegedly drove a town pickup truck over a neighbor’s lawn. The incident took place on Oct. 21, according to an Edgartown Police report. That report indicates photographs and video allegedly captured Bagnall’s town truck in the act. The case was scheduled for arraignment, but was diverted on a motion to a magistrate’s hearing, according to court records. 

Bagnall declined to comment Tuesday except to say he expects to go before the magistrate Wednesday. Bagnall’s attorney, Skip Tomassian, also declined to comment. Edgartown District Court clerk-magistrate Liza Williamson issued an order Wednesday after finding there was probable cause Bagnall committed property defacement. Williamson’s order authorized a criminal complaint to issue against Bagnall. 

The Times requested access to the hearing on the basis that it was in the public interest, but Williamson denied the petition on the grounds the proceeding is closed to the public similar to a grand jury. 

“The open and public character of most court proceedings is well known,” she wrote. “However, there is no First Amendment or common law right of access to show cause hearings that precede the initiation of criminal proceedings…The legal considerations which dictate the public character of a trial are not present here. There is no tradition of public access to show cause hearings, which are similar to grand jury proceedings. Such secrecy protects individuals against whom complaints are denied from undeserved notoriety, embarrassment and disgrace.”

The incident was already published in the court report and The Times had a copy of the police report ahead of Wednesday’s hearing.

In that report, the neighbor told Det. Curtis Chandler he’s had issues with Bagnall since he moved into his Smith Hollow Drive home five years ago over clearing trees.

“[The neighbor] explained that when he started clearing trees off his property Bagnall would come over to the property and yell at the workers,” Chandler wrote. “He stated that it got to the point where he put up a fence to prevent Bagnall from coming over.”

The neighbor said when he started to build a guesthouse, Bagnall allegedly started complaining and had “become increasingly agitated with him doing work on his property.”

The neighbor told Chandler “that the area in front of his house would periodically get torn up,” a report states. “It appeared that someone had intentionally spun their tires on it. He stated that he repaired it [four] times. He then installed a camera on his front porch.”

On October 20th at approximately 11 am, the neighbor told Chandler he had  “several contractors on his property installing a patio and firepit.” Bagnall allegedly came nextdoor and yelled at the contractors, the report states.

“Bagnall was asked to leave by the parties and he did,” Chandler wrote. “When he arrived home later that day he observed fresh tire marks and damage to the front lawn. He reviewed the camera footage and was able to see what appeared to be Bagnall’s truck at 09:53 am drive onto the lawn and run the length of the front of his property.”

In the report, Chandler states he observed in photographs/footage he was provided a pickup resembling the one Bagnall was issued by Edgartown. “In one of the pictures, the vehicle appears to be spinning its rear right tire and kicking up some debris. The vehicle then travels the length of the property and then level[s] out and exit[s] the frame,” the report states.

The lawn damage was “consistent with the pictures that I observed of Bagnall’s truck and its travel pattern,” Chandler wrote.  

When Bagnall came to the station for an interview, Chandler noted he drove a truck that seemed to match the truck caught on camera. Bagnall was read his Miranda Rights and asked to sign a Miranda Rights form, which he did, according to a report.

Bagnall told Det. Chandler he and his neighbor have “a long history of issues” and that Bagnall has challenged his neighbor at the zoning board of appeals regarding his neighbor’s guesthouse.   

“Bagnall proceeded to give a litany of reasons that his neighbor…has been difficult to live next to,” Chandler wrote. “His chief complaint was that [his neighbor] was operating a commercial business from his residence and that the property was not zoned for it and it was against the covenants for the housing  association. He further stated that the noise from work being done has been  difficult to stand.  

Bagnall then proceeded to tell me about the most recent incident regarding a cement mixer. He stated that he went on to the property to complain to  the workers that they should not be ‘descaling’ the mixer in the  neighborhood and it was too loud. He stated that one of the employees for the company that was doing the work came over to him and told him to  leave and threaten[ed] to beat him up.”

Bagnall asked Chandler for a no trespass order against his neighbor, according to the report.

“He stated that ‘the guy has a history against me,’” the report states. “He stated that he just wanted to make things difficult for him and show him that he was serious. Bagnall advised that eventually the suit over the guest house was resolved and [the neighbor] moved it. Bagnall promised that he would not set foot on [the neighbor’s] property again.”

When Chandler asked if Bagnall had ever been on the neighbor’s property before, Bagnall allegedly said “Yes, to get my horse that escaped its pen.” He also told Chandler that he went “over in the past to complain about noise.” According to the report, Bagnall acknowledged driving past the property four times Oct. 20.

When Chandler explained the neighbor complained that he “drove over his lawn and damaged it,”   

Bagnall told the officer: “Not true, that section is part of the road easement. His property stops on the top of the hill. Where you can see the tracks that are not necessarily made by me, they are made by anyone that had to pull over  to get out of the way for vehicles like the UPS truck or landscape trucks coming from the opposite side.”

Chandler subsequently told Bagnall he believed he “did drive onto [the neighbor’s] property intentionally with malicious intent and caused the damage to the lawn,” a report states.  

Chandler shared photography taken from the neighbor’s house, according to a report. 

“I asked if that is his truck,”  and he stated “‘Yes that is my  truck’,” a report states. “I then showed him the rest of the series of pictures and explained to him that what he did was wrong and that he should not have done it in a town vehicle. I further advised that I did not see any other vehicles in the pictures only his truck. He did not drive onto the lawn to get out of the way of oncoming traffic, I advised him that he did it maliciously. He did not deny doing it, but rather provided the defense that the property does not belong to [the neighbor].”

Chandler told Bagnall that he believed he would have to pay for the damage in the past that he’d done to the neighbor, the report states. 

“I further advised that I believe he did this to [the neighbor] because he wanted to get back at [the neighbor] for the noise that workers at his house had made,” Chandler wrote. “Bagnall admitted that he did it and stated ‘I did that because I was pissed off, not to piss him off, nothing pisses him off’.”

Chandler issued a summons on charge of malicious destruction of property and no trespass orders to both Bagnall and the neighbor. Williamson’s ruling instead found the accurate charge was defacing property.

Reached Wednesday, Edgartown town administrator James Hagerty declined to comment on Bagnall.

9 COMMENTS

  1. The Times has provided an interesting story. Paul Bagnall is a good guy. Also, in this edition, is a lovely article by Paul, with a recipe for a festive cocktail, containing cranberry juice, ginger beer and bourbon. In the photo, the brand of bourbon is “Larceny”. We had a great laugh, as a result of the coincidence of these two articles, courtesy of the MV Times. Thank you.

  2. Could it be that this escalation is representative of the incredible stress our community, and the entire nation, is under due to the impact of the Coronavirus? Good people expressing the generalized anger, helplessness and frustration that we are all feeling to some degree. Especially now during this holiday season, let us all redouble our efforts, take a few deep breaths and focus on our blessings – the best among them that we all live here – together.

    • Very nice and wishful thinking Melinda I am with ya!
      Some of us have been hoping everyone redoubles their efforts concerning masking up and social distancing without any positive results for a good nine plus months now.
      Now we have to sit back and watch the island’s positive numbers increasing almost daily.
      It seems like having Martha’s Vineyard weddings, packed houses and anti-recommendationers (my new word) are the order of the day. Enforcement is and has been non existent!

      Our Washington politicians are real great role models (JK) by ignoring the CDC`s ~ etc recommendations and the very few common sense governors and mayors of our country.
      They give their Orders to us while `Vacationing` in Mexico etc and visiting out of their states all while others are doing damage to our elderly in nursing homes and Veterans Hospitals thu out our country!

      I could say much more Melinda as you know but I wanted to give you a `Like` for opening the door and I also did not want get George upset and shred my comment.

    • He is indeed awesome. I have known Paul Bagnall for over 40 years. He has been a dedicated and effective public servant for Edgartown for many, many years. His record as the shellfish constable in Edgartown is unblemished and highlighted by his being named by his MA peers as constable of the year.
      Personally, he is a caring and generous husband and father, committed to his community and the island.

  3. Looks like several friends making excuses for bad behavior of an adult who should be able to control sophomoric idiocy.

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