By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — A sheathed hunting knife being carried by a man convicted of nonviolent drug crimes in 2014 was enough to send him to state prison for 2 1/2 to 5 years, said a Belknap County Superior Court judge last week.
Robert Lilly, 41, formerly of 397 Union Ave., has been in jail since March 23 when Presiding Justice James O'Neill determined he violated Rule 7 of his probation agreement that says he will "be of good conduct, obey all laws and be arrest-free."
A request to reconsider the sentence was denied, so Lilly appealed the court's determination that he was ineligible for bail while awaiting trial for possession of the knife to the state Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court determined that O'Neill did not fully explain his decision for denying Lilly bail and remanded, or sent back, the ruling to him for a more thorough explanation, which was filed on Sept. 2.
Paperwork from the court said that Lilly was arrested by Gilford Police on Nov. 13, 2015, at Walmart and charged with operating (a motorcycle) after suspension, operating without giving financial proof and being a felon in possession of a deadly weapon, which was the sheathed hunting knife hanging from his belt. The charge of operating without giving proof was dismissed.
Police said they were called to Walmart to deal with a woman who was on the property after being ordered to stay away. The officer found the woman outside in a group of people that included Lilly.
Lilly went into Walmart and purchased something from one of the vending machines, and the officer noticed the sheathed hunting knife hanging off his belt. His supervisor recognized Lilly and verified he had a previous felony conviction.
Once Lilly finished his purchase, police said he and his female companion walked to a parked motorcycle, started it and drove to another portion of the parking lot and parked it there.
During his encounter with Lilly, the Gilford officer said Lilly never reached for the knife nor did he act in a threatening manner to him or anyone else. The officer would later testify that he agreed with the statement that Lilly appeared to be "minding his own business."
In January of 2016, Lilly was indicted for being a felon in possession of a weapon. He was also given notice that he violated his probation for being arrested and a hearing was set for March.
After the hearing, Lilly was found "chargeable" and sent to prison for 2 ½ to 5 years for his underlying conviction for drug possession.
In early June, Lilly's criminal case for being a felon in possession of deadly weapon went to trial. After the prosecutor presented its side of the case, O'Neill determined she had not provided enough evidence for a new criminal conviction and he dismissed the case and dismissed the jury.
Yet, Lilly remains in prison.
According to a local attorney not affiliated with the case, the standard for probation violations is much lower than for a new criminal conviction."
"It's more like a civil standard," he said. "More likely than not, as opposed to beyond a reasonable doubt."
Lilly is eligible for parole on March 23, 2018.
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