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New Hampshire home owner Ward Bird is sitting in prison thanks to a three-year sentence for “felony criminal threatening.” According to the official court records [via], a woman named Christine Harris was looking at property near Mr. Bird’s trailer home when she became lost. “Harris drove past signs that stated ‘Private road, keep out’ on Emerson Path and ‘no trespassing’ on Yukon Trail. She missed the left hand turn off of Yukon Trail, drove past the white trailer, and ended up in front of the defendant’s house. She parked her car and got out. The defendant emerged from his home¬†screaming, ‘get the F off my property’ . . .

“He came down from his porch, continuing to yell profanities while waving a gun at her. At trial, she testified that he pointed the gun ‘[t]owards’ her. Harris asked the defendant whether he was the boyfriend of the woman selling the property. He repeated his command for her to leave his property. Harris eventually climbed back into her car, mouthing ‘[w]hat an ass.’ The defendant then walked off the porch toward her waving his gun as she backed out of the driveway.”

The prosecution, jury conviction and subsequent sentence has riled up residents in the Live Free or Die state. You can read the New Hamshire statutes involved and follow the ongoing protests, letter writing campaign and appeals for clemency on Meanwhile, today’s added its voice to the growing chorus pointing out the absurdity of the law, the ruling and the sentence, calling for new legislation to clarify lawful brandishing.

The key element of the criminal threatening law, for example, appears to be not the state of mind of the person making the threat but the emotional state of the target of the threat. If the person is scared enough, then the person making the threat is guilty.

Say it’s the week after the horrific Mont Vernon home invasion that left a mother dead and her 10-year-old daughter severely wounded. Several teens, hoping to attend a late-night party, go to the wrong house and knock on the door. Inside are a single mother and her children. The mother answers the door, but she’s holding a leveled pistol. The teens panic, run and call the police.

In this scenario, the woman would have done the same thing Bird allegedly did, minus his apparent profanity. Would a jury find her guilty of felony criminal threatening? Maybe. Maybe not.

What if the gun wasn’t loaded? She knew that she could not “inflict death or serious bodily injury” on anyone, but the teens didn’t. Under the law, it doesn’t matter. She had used a firearm to “purposely place(s) or attempt(s) to place another in fear. . . “

Once again, we’d warn anyone who owns a firearm for self-defense to become thoroughly familiar with the laws in his or her state regarding the display or use of that firearm, and what needs doing immediately after a self-defense shooting. As does the Monitor:

Surveys suggest that about one-third of the state’s households have a gun in them. The people in those homes need to know when they may legally point that gun, loaded or unloaded, without winding up behind bars.

Or, we would add, dead.

UPDATE: New Hampshire has freed Ward Bird. Click here for details.

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  1. I dunno, but it seems this guy threatened the woman with a gun. That it was on his property seems immaterial to me. He behaved dangerously with a gun. He behaved criminally and, incidentally, made all gun owners look bad. Why are we being asked to defend him?

      • Actually she did. Ward had just come back from surgery and was full of staples. Christine Harris has a long record of mental illness and multiple convictions for animal cruelty. Ward had no idea of how much danger he was in.

    • Since watching these current events on the news and radio broadcasts i would beleive in what Wards part of the story saying he did not point the weapon at her but meerly checked for ammunition still within the guns chamber and had no what so ever of any criminal threating towads her. The women how ever did not “apparently.” fallow these signs and went through to check for. ” land.” as said in another news feed. also with the odds against her with of abouts towards animal cruality charges. But how ever if we may not be able to have these gun laws such as self defense against any whome may seem to be threatening to there family and land then what would the point be in haveing a weapon against some one how actually would put a threat on there family. there for the last bit i will say is i support greatly towards Ward bird high respects. take care Mr. Bird hope and wish for the best. the family deserves there father. there husband back.

  2. You have to remember she passed several no trespassing signs to end up where she did. He entered the scenario knowing this unknown person purposefully passed all those signs. He didn't know what her intent was. He could have come to the party thinking he had enemies.

  3. Seems like a crazy-old redneck to me – 3 years so straighten him out a bit. We had a small patch of property in rural PA that people would occasionally end up on, either intentionally or unintentionally. While very well armed inside the house, we never ran after them with a rifle, pistol, or shotgun demanding they leave the property. Having property clearly marked “No Trespassing” is irrelevant.

  4. So much for his private property rights. Did he have reasonable expectation of privacy on his own property with all the signs posted? Crazy or not there is a movement for Castle Doctrine in this country. It means on your property someone will trespass at their peril. Would a reasonable man be concerned that someone was a danger to his person or property way out in the woods? Try living in WV, KY or any place out there in Appalachia? If you have never been there you have no idea how dangerous the back woods can be. I guess No Trespassing signs mean nothing in NH? Live Free or Die; what BS.

    • Castle Doctrine does not apply to "property", only dwellings, and in some states also vehicles. I'm sure our residential lawyer can talk more, but Trespassing signs are nothing more than a deterrent. While they may have some pull in court, they do not allow property owners to brandish weapons at people who trespass. He does have property rights; he also has to right to be rational and civil. Running outside wearing an oak barrel with suspenders, waiving a gun around and yelling profanities is neither. Even if the lady was trespassing with malicious intent, how effective (from a tactical standpoint) was his response?

    • I’m in the mountains in East Kentucky, these backwoods are no place for a stranger and damn sure no place for a stranger to be trespassing where he or she does not belong. There’s not a jury around here that would convict for showing a pushy trespassing stranger the business end of a gun. She should have left immediately. Or never went past the signs in the first place. Is she a city type gal?

  5. As a NH resident I've been following this case closely. Interestingly enough, the judge in the case has come out and said that he would have preferred to place Bird on a work-release suspended sentence but was forced to give the jail time due to the mandatory sentencing rules.

    In my own small circle of NH gun owning friends we all seee this guy as stupid red-neck who really behaved poorly and gave normal gun owners a bad name. However, we also recognise that even stupid red-necks have certain property rights.

    Finally, we all wonder why the woman didn't get the hell out of there at the first sign of a cursing, pissed off, red-neck with a gun? Instead she stuck around and asked questions.

  6. having a little problem here myself-
    was there a gate up also posted? if not, and she has driven straight to his house to identify her self and state her reason for being there THAT is NOT trespassing, he did not know her reason for being there! and she was not posing a threat, his response should have been, lady you are trespassing and you need to leave now, allow her a moment to understand what is requested/demanded [repeat if necessary] if a weapon is in hand it should have positioned as to be unobtrusive.

    btw – that law could make anybody a criminal just by the way it is written. even if it was written more clearly it would not have helped this gentleman as he clearly was threatening her without provocation.

  7. I'm amazed at how many people seem to think that the law stops at the property line. No, you can't threaten someone without justification just because they are on private property. Nor can you cook meth, run a prostitution ring, launder money or train terrorists on private property.

    I see nothing here to indicate that Harris did anything that would cause a reasonable person to be in fear of his life. By intentionally pointing a gun at Harris, Bird threatened deadly force for no apparent reason. Contrary to the newspaper article, her state of mind is irrelevant – it is Bird's intention that is key and if his intention was to put her in fear for her life then he was justly convicted. Nuts with guns ought not get a pass just because they happen to be on private property.

    • Then why call it private property? Lets just all be able to go where we want. So do you feel we can only be threaten in our houses and not on our private property. You know the the stuff we pay all the taxes to own. She was trespassing. Her violation of the led to his actions.

  8. "we all wonder why the woman didn't get the hell out of there at the first sign of a cursing, pissed off, red-neck with a gun? Instead she stuck around and asked questions."

    Musta been one o them Mass – holes.

  9. Christine Harris is a famous animal hoarder and, it seems, a wacko. Ward Bird, who had been honored as a life-saving hero by the state in 1990, flew off the handle for reasons known only to him after Harris wandered onto his property.

    Bird turned down a plea deal that would have involved a suspended sentence with no jail time, anger management and forfeiture of firearms (not a lifetime ban). He refused, went to trial and was convicted. The mandatory minimum sentence he will serve is three years. He might serve six. That's a pretty big ticket, if you ask me. In Massachusetts, you wouldn't get six years for shooting up an elementary school.

    The state Supreme Court heard Bird's appeal form his conviction and decided that Harris reasonably believed that she was threatened. If Bird hand't been shouting curses, the case might have gone differently.

  10. I guess most of you have never had an encounter with more than one bad guy, nor could you even entertain the idea that one of the bad guys, might be a decoy woman, right? But you feel real justified in judging another man because he scared someone, didn’t hurt ’em, just scared ’em, when he was scared about what might be transpiring at his place of residence and the possible implications and ramifications of that immediate situation.

    Evidently the state agrees with you don’t even realize what that means to your freedom and safety. You deserve that government and all it’s trimmings. Normal people don’t, so I guess anyone like us will have to move. Hope you learn the hard way, I did, and you deserve to as well

    • "The state" didn't convict him, a jury of his peers did and they were privy to all of the relevant information in the case.

      A dangerous lunatic points a gun at an innocent person without justification and gets convicted – that doesn't really pose a threat to my "freedom and safety." As I said above, the law doesn't stop at your property line.

      • Just what constitutes relevant information? Christine Harris has a long history of this sort of behavior accompanied by her long criminal record.

        The jury was not privy to the fact that she is a crazed animal hoarder that was hoping to seize control of a million dollar property to use for a puppy mill with no intention of ever paying off the million dollar mortgage that such property would require.

    • I feel completely justified in judging him; he's an idiot. I say that because if he really did worry about possible ambush, the best tactic wasn't to come out of his house screaming and waving a gun. It would have been immeasurably more sensible to stay inside, behind cover, and clearly communicate his armed state and direct her to leave. But instead, he acted as the moron that he is. Many can debate the merits or faults of this case from a legal standpoint, but I think most reasonable people will agree that his behavior, regardless of it's legality, was profoundly stupid.

      Additionally, his stupidity has no direct impact on my freedom except to give gun-owners a bad name, which in turn, influences the creation of even more restrictive laws.

      • Maybe he did act somewhat irrationally, but people do irrational things when threatened. To my mind here is, by all acounts, a normally a rational man who duiring this incident started acting irrationally….maybe he felt threatened.???
        They ONLY merits of this case are from a legal stanpoint. Being stupid is not illegal…if it were, you and many other people I know would be sharing a jail cell with Mr. Ward.

      • Did you ever consider the possibility that Christine Harris a woman with a history of criminal animal cruelty might not be telling the truth?

  11. I think one's behavior while using a firearm for self defense is absolutely relevant. If you carry concealed, you don't go around flipping people off in traffic. Being armed, you have a responsibility to avoid conflict, not escalate a potentially dangerous situation. If this guy had calmly walked onto his porch with his gun pointed in a safe direction and asked her to leave, it's a different story (still an overreaction, imo, but likely legal). The possession of the weapon is not in and of itself a threat. The threat is in the aggressive behavior, and pointing the weapon. That said, three years seems pretty stiff. Probably should have taken the plea. I wonder if alcohol was a factor in this encounter?

  12. Please recall that the version of events which are being related in the media are the county prosecutors version of events as told by the complainant. Ward has always maintained that:
    1. Yes, he had a gun in a holster at his side and that the only time it was removed was to clear the magazine prior to entering his home.
    2. He asked the woman to leave his property three separate times, the last time being the one in which he lost his temper and swore at her before turning into the house to call the police.
    3. At no time did he ever raise the gun in the direction of the woman in question.

    Note that he was only 9 days out from emergency surgery to repair a ruptured abdominal aorta for which he was med-flighted to Portland, Maine. He was not in a position to either run down the driveway or to “wave a gun.”

    He was originally only charged with reckless conduct, yet the county prosecutor (an elected position from which she was recently “unelected”) chose to increase the charges after the first mistrial. Upon his conviction, the judge lamented the fact that the State law had been amended such that he had no latitude to change the mandatory 3-6 year sentence imposed. A feeling reinforced by the statements of the NH Supreme Court justices who could not overturn the process but still felt the penalty did not fit the “crime.”

    The woman who pressed charges has her own history of questionable conduct which was not allowed to be brought to bear in Ward’s defense. Doing so would have cast her in the more appropriate light in a “He said, She said” case.

    I encourage you to look up Christine Harris of Salem, NH – who was convicted for animal abuse and determine for yourself the pattern of behavior she exhibits.

    More information is available on our website including the trial documents. We encourage people to make their own decisions based on available information rather than media coloration or conjecture.

    Our organization has four goals:
    1. To get Ward home on Administrative Home Confinement for Christmas
    2. To get him a full pardon
    3. To get his record expunged
    4. To change the law so that no one else suffers this same fate.

    Our fifth goal has already been realized in getting him reassigned from the State Prison to County jail so that he is out of an unhealthy prison population and closer to his family. A move that was supported by both the current and former town police chiefs.

    Free Ward Bird!

  13. If Ms. Harris has an ounce of sense, she would, in this litigious country that has come to be in the last 30 years, sue every person who writes a letter to the editor of any newspaper in New Hampshire claiming Ms. Harris is “nuts.” Since when are ordinary citizens not possessed of a degree in psychiatry, psychology, or social work qualified to pass judgment that Ms. Harris is “nuts?” If one reads enough about this case, and it is blanketing the news outlets in the Lakes Region, any person of average intelligence would come to believe it is Mr. Bird who is “nuts,” not Ms. Harris; the issue here is not Ms. Harris’s convictions, numerous though they may be, for animal cruelty, but rather Mr. Bird’s actions in seeking Ms. Harris’s leave taking of his property.

    “An overzealous police department,” as some have said, is that what the parents of children in the Lakes Region are telling their offspring about the actions of the Moultonborough Police Department vis a vis Ward Bird? If so, shame on them!

    If Ms. Harris indeed has outstanding warrants for her arrest in connection with animal cruelty or “animal hoarding,” then the Moultonborough Police Department had a legal obligation to detain Ms. Harris when she called them to report Mr. Bird’s actions against her. Did that happen? I am not aware that it did, and I am also not aware that in March 2006 when this incident occurred, Ms. Harris had any outstanding wants or warrants. If indeed that was the case, please enlighten me so I can reorient my thinking about the actions of the Moultonborough Police Department. Until such time as I confirm such information, it is my opinion that the Moultonborough Police Department was well within its rights to answer Ms. Harris’s call for help–even if that call resulted in Mr. Bird’s imprisonment.

    Speaking of Mr. Bird’s imprisonment, I am wondering how come he is entitled to the preferential treatment of being housed in the Carroll County Jail rather than the state prison in either Concord or Berlin. What did he do to merit this preferential treatment?

  14. I do not give a good god damn about which story is true. For what Mr. Bird might have allegedly done he should not lose three to six years of his life as a free man. His wife should not have to be without her husband for three to six years. His four children should not be without a father for three to six years. My tax dollars should not pay to make it so for three to six years.

    Further more, from what I read of the case documents the only evidence that there was any wrong doing comes from that womans mouth. She is apparently a crazy animal hoarder. He is a boy scout troop leader. Fire arm safety is pretty strongly emphasized by the BSA. I dont think this was a crazy resneck at all. More likely, this is a case where Mr Bird became a victim of a system where we allow the word of one person to carry more weight than another.

    And if we are going to discuss the idea of who was more scared in this situation, if you were sitting on your couch and saw a stranger pull into the driveway after passing multiple no trespassing signs in why would you ever possibly assume that they are just lost? I would be afraid, just as Mr Bird probably was too.

  15. I’m stunned by what some people have written here. Most is conjecture and what-ifs. Only Mr. Martin has made a case.

    Ditto. Free Ward Bird

  16. One needs to go read the transcripts of the trial and they will realise
    that Mr. Bird did not like the idea that a piece of property near his was being sold.
    He inquired from the selling realtor about ways to stop the sale even though he had not legal rights to the property. Guess he thought being Mr Toughguy would stop the sale.
    He declined a plea bargin, took his chances with a trial and lost.
    The only reason this is making news is because the judge, who’s hands are tied, spoke out on the sentence. Had the judge just done his job, kept his personal opinion out of the sentencing phase, we’d never have know. Now the anti-gun people have another story to add to thier adgenda.

  17. There’s a lot that wasn’t allowed into the trial that would have made a much different verdict; as well as changed a lot of bloggers’ opinions.

    Mr Bird apparently knew Ms Harris had a history of violent actions. The local community apparently knew Ms Harris a mentally unstable, or at least had a non-standard view of reality. Harris’ prior run-ins and convictions were apparently not allowed to be introduced to the trial; a grave and critical oversight and injustice.

    Mr Bird’s niece told Ms Harris where he lived, but I’m unable to find if she told Ms Harris not to go there or not. Bird’s niece did call him to warn him she was on her way.

    Mr Bird had only been home a week from cardio-vascular abdominal surgery and would not have been able to fend off an attack by a child without grave injury, much less a crazy adult woman. His condition apparently was also barred from introduction to the trial.

    Having a gun in hand is not the same as waving it at someone. Bird’s testimony did not have him waving it at Ms Harris. Her testimony says he did. He said, she said. His remotely located, posted property. Her mental instability. Yet the jury ruled in her favor? What’s missing here?

    What kind of justice system condemns a man who is a good productive member of his community, a good father and husband, a man recently suffering from a grave cardio-vascular condition, a man who is not a danger to anyone unless they pose a threat to him or his friends or family, to 3 to 6 years of incarceration in a disease-riddled prison system?

  18. I find it interesting that no one has wondered why Mr. Bird never testified at trial…. Hmmm perhaps he has some past history that contradicts his “Responsible Boy Scout hero” persona… Perhaps he is not as responsible and safe as his defenders would like us all to believe..

    Every defendant has a right to not testify in his defense, the 5th Ammendment is alive and well, however when you have a history of recklessly shooting guns at or around innocent people, as Mr. Bird does, it is best to not let the jury hear such information.

    Plain and sinple, Mr. Bird appears to be a reckless liar with a history of shooting and pointing guns at people. He got what he deserves.

  19. So what if Ward is a Boy Scout. Boy Scouts are humans. Some Boy Scouts are good people. My Scout Master was a sadistic, nasty piece of work who died at age 45 of heart failure. Ward seems a bit high strung. Ward seems like a scared to death gun toting hothead. Ward already has a conviction for gun violations. Stop with the,” Ward is a Boy Scout”, nonsense already.
    Why would he not testify? He probably realized that he would look like a fool brandishing a gun at/ or around a woman who was alone. On or off his property.
    I think that if you break the law, that you should do the time.
    Lock him up! And keep him locked up! Oh and keep him away from guns for life.

    • Illegal does not mean somebody did something wrong. People can disobey laws all day without anyone getting hurt. Nice slave mentality you got in that brain.

  20. Why is this trespassing woman’s word more believeable than the sign posting property owner’s? Who was in the wrong to begin with?

  21. Good thing she didn’t wander around on Texas property. Shooting her, would of been legal and the proper thing to do. I read every repsonse posted here so far and I am amazed, actually sickened, by the responses of “well he brandished a firearm/weapon and cursed her, therefore he got what he deserved” crowd.

    On those grounds, NH should quickly move to indict Obama, as he has threatened several countries while brandishing one of the largest nuclear weapon hordes on the planet, not too mention several million men/women armed with all sort of firepower. Since the sentence is mandatory, 3-6 years, no questions asked, lets see how many of you laugh that one off.

  22. Mr. Bird harmed no one, and does not deserve punishment for doing nothing other than “uninviting” a trespasser from his property, after spending his own money to post signs informing everyone that they were unwelcome on his property without invitation! He should not have been convicted of any crime, because he didn’t commit a crime. The voting members of this New Hampshire household strongly urge Governor Lynch to pardon Mr. Bird, and erase every record of his conviction by ignorants!

  23. The truth of the matter is it was a “he said she said” situation. You don’t know if he really behaved like a “moronic red-neck” or if she appeared threatening to him. Obviously she was the threat, and got the shit scared out of herself, became embarrassed and decided to press charges. Who are you going to believe, a psychotic animal abuser or a father of 4 that takes his kids to Scouts?

  24. The more I read about this case, the less I believe how the media reported on it. Looks like everyone has this guy made out to be a “crazy redneck,” but even without considering his/her record the actual court records and transcripts change how it sounds he acted. Everyone is assuming she is telling the truth and that he came after her with a gun. If that were true… she might have a case. In reality, it sounds like she went looking for trouble, was rejected from the area, and is now probably gloating that she got the guy put in jail. I hope she gets sued.

  25. First off the property was posted. In more than one place. Harris did not stop at the first building that she passed to make her inquiries. When she got to Bird’s house he came out and told her to leave. Gun or no gun,he didn’t know what her intent was. The very thought that she proceeded passed the first house to his presented a threat to him. When she was confronted by Bird,he was concerned and told her to leave. She didn’t. One could see that as a threatening gesture also. When someone comes on your property against your will,is told to leave and doesn’t,what is their intent? Is it not your right to feel threatened? If she had stopped at the first posted “no trespassing” sign and turned around this wouldn’t have happened. If she had stopped at the first house she passed this wouldn’t have happened. If she had left when Bird told her to this wouldn’t have happened.
    Why has noone cared about the level of threat to Bird? Because it was a woman?
    Read the papers. Women are much more dangerous than most people are willing to admit. They are now asking for combat roles in Afghanistan. How was Bird to know what her intent was? She passed all these barriers and when confronted still refused to leave. If someone came to your door and you told them repeatedly to leave and they didn’t,wouldn’t you feel threatened?
    Also,if Bird had just denied ever seeing Harris the possibility exists it would have been dismissed and wouldn’t even be a topic of discussion today.

  26. Perhaps the bigger question is what was Christine Harris up to and were there any witnesses to back up Harris’s claims? She has been proven in the past to be an unstable person, prone to violent tendencies and animal abuse. If she were to have shown up my property I would have immediately called the authorities and have her removed. If I were Bird I would be watching my back. He probably hasn’t seen nor heard the last of her.

  27. In TEXAS a property owner has the RIGHT to “protect” property by activating a
    firearm (‘personal protection device’ or PPD) regarding tresspassers!

    NOTE: Why is it easier to get a Driver License (PRIVALEGE) than a
    PPD/Firearm (RIGHT)?

  28. Castle doctrine should supersede everything except a warrant presented by official law enforcement acting in their jurisdiction. The NH Law seems stupid if the man was on his own property. I have lived in NY, CA, ME, OH, GA, FL & TX. The laws are all different and one should know them before one moves to a given state. FL’s law is that if someone threatens you even in your car you do not have to retreat. Tx, if you are on my property during the day and refuse to leave, or if I believe you have committed or are about to commit a crime I have the right/responsibility to shoot. If you are in my house during the day uninvited, I have the right to shoot. From dusk to dawn, even if you are on my property uninvited, I have the right to defend myself and my property. This law in NH makes all NH residents sitting ducks. Is this law saying that if I go to your property, trespassing and you threaten me with a gun, I get to press charges that you brandished a gun??? OK, All criminals go to NH.. it’s easy pickin’. Even if they had a gun, they’d be afraid to use it. No wonder these idiots don’t understand the criminal trespassing that is being done by the Mexicans down here.

  29. Putting this guy in jail was extreme… NH Farmers are as a rule sensible people… Guns are very legal in NY… The law is lame… it needs changing … Gov. John Lynch needs changing because of this alone… If he wants gun control he should move to Mayor Bloomberg’s NYC… They have the draconian gun laws that should make him feel safe… Though it is a lot more likely you will get shot in NYC than NH,,,

    I prefer Florida where they have a stand your ground law … If you are confronted or threatened on your property or even your car you can shoot the trespassor/aggressor …

    You will not do a minute of time either..

  30. I’m I correct in understanding this women wasn’t physically harmed! She disregarded multiple signs, “No Trespassing”, “Keep Out”, And yet continued to drive on. I feel he has the right to brandish a weapon. He doesn’t know who is coming on his property without his permission. She should have been charged with trespassing. He was on His property and didn’t discharged his weapon, what’s the problem? Live Free or DIE.
    Great to hear he was released. Did anyone else noticed the women who made the accusations against him was charged with hording animals. She claimed he was unstable?


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