Judge rejects plea in homeless man’s slaying

Posted Nov. 05, 2009, at 3:49 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A Superior Court judge on Thursday rejected a plea agreement in the slaying of a homeless man 18 months ago.

Justice Michaela Murphy gave Stephen James, 58, of Bangor until Friday, Nov. 13, to decide if he wants to accept a new plea offer that would not include probation or withdraw his guilty plea to manslaughter and go to trial on a murder charge.

If James accepts the offer, he would be sentenced next week in Penobscot County Superior Court, the judge said.

James was charged with murdering another homeless man, Clyde “Pudge” Worster, 63, of Bangor on April 27, 2008, reportedly after a fight over beer. James pleaded guilty to manslaughter in July to slaying Worster at his transient campsite, located near the University College of Bangor campus between the water tower and Interstate 95.

Murphy said Thursday that she rejected the agreement of 20 years with all but 14 years suspended and six years of probation due to the nature of the crime and James’ extensive criminal record, which includes 13 felonies, nine of which she described as crimes of violence. Murphy also said that James had not done well on probation previously.

Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, who is prosecuting the case, said the new offer was 20 years, but defense attorney F. David Walker IV of Bangor would be free to argue for a lesser sentence.

Murphy said if James did decide to withdraw his guilty plea to manslaughter, a trial could be scheduled for March or April in the new Penobscot Judicial Center, set to open on Nov. 23.

If convicted of murder, James would face a minimum of 25 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life. The maximum sentence for manslaughter is 30 years.