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N.H. town fights for one of its own

December 27, 2010
Peter May

Conviction galvanizes Lakes Region around gun and property rights, sentencing guidelines

Cars and pickups fill the parking lot and spill onto the street near the community center on a rainy December evening. Inside, a local band, Jam Sandwich, wraps up a set with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird,’’ while folks sip beer, watch football, and enjoy a barbecue buffet, complete with a roasted pig.

The atmosphere is upbeat. The occasion is somber. More than 100 residents of this rural town in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region have come to support a popular native son, Ward Bird.

Bird, however, a 49-year-old family farmer, is 20 miles away. He sits in the Carroll County House of Corrections, jailed since November for an offense he insists he did not commit. His case has galvanized the region, with widespread sentiment that the punishment does not fit the crime — if the crime even happened.

Three and a half years ago, in a profanity-laced tirade, Bird warned a stranger who said she was lost to get off his land, 60 mountainside acres that are off the grid and plastered with “No Trespassing,’’ “Keep Out,’’ and “Private Property’’ signs. After his arrest, Christine Harris, then of Salem, N.H., testified that Bird waved a gun at her. He said the Sig-Sauer .45-caliber handgun remained in his holster. There were no witnesses to the confrontation at the home Bird shares with his wife, Virginia, and their four children.

And now… the rest of the story. …..

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