April 23, 2018
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Man convicted of baby’s death files appeal

Accompanied by his attorney, Steven Peterson, Robert E. Harford Jr. cries during his arraignment at Knox County Superior Court in Rockland on Oct. 7, 2008. BANGOR DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO BY KATE COLLINS CAPTION Accompanied by his attorney Steve Peterson, Robert E. Harford, Jr., right, cries during his arraignment before Knox County Superior Court in Rockland on Tuesday, October 7, 2008. Harford is charged in the August death of his 9-week-old daughter Ava. (Bangor Daily News/Kate Collins)
By Heather Steeves, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — A Rockland man convicted of killing his 2-month-old daughter last year is appealing his sentence.

Robert E. Harford Jr. was sentenced in December in Knox County Superior Court to spend 16 years behind bars after pleading guilty in October to domestic violence manslaughter. His attorney, Steven Peterson of Rockport, had asked for a sentence of 10 years.

Peterson, who filed the appeal in Knox County Superior Court last week, said Tuesday the sentence is excessive and defies the concept of equality in sentencing.

“He got a 16-year sentence, but based on the research I did and the state’s own materials, the average sentence for this is in the five- to eight-year range,” Peterson said. “He got 16 years, which is twice what most people get.”

A review panel will decide whether the appeal will be heard. No date has been set for the review, Peterson said.

At Harford’s sentencing in December, many people spoke in support of him, attesting to his loving character.

Justice Jeffrey Hjelm said Harford’s family support was a powerful mitigating factor, but gave Harford a 25-year sentence with all but 16 years suspended and six years’ probation. The justice said that although Harford had the capacity to nurture, he did not do so with his daughter.

Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea had recommended a sentence of 20 years with all but 17 years suspended.

Harford’s attorney said Tuesday the family testimony should have been given greater weight by the judge.

“He should have been given a lot more than three years’ credit for that,” Peterson said.

Ava Harford died of blunt-force trauma to the head after Harford threw her to the ground on Aug. 17, 2008 at his home on New County Road in Rockland.

Harford initially told police he accidentally dropped the baby from a standing position when he picked her up for a feeding. Three days later he admitted to police that he had thrown her to the floor.

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