Man acquitted in gravel pit assault

Posted Sept. 29, 2010, at 3:36 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:07 p.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — A Bangor man was acquitted of assault after testifying Wednesday afternoon that he was not present when the attack allegedly occurred.

Jayson Lapoint, 28, told a jury he was not at the Sedgwick gravel pit where Thomas Powell was struck repeatedly with a pipe or club in August 2005. Lapoint, who lived in Bucksport when the incident occurred, and a trial witness each told the jury that Lapoint had been at the witness’ apartment in Bucksport the night of the at-tack.

Lapoint had been facing charges of aggravated assault and assault.

Powell, 21, of Sedgwick testified Tuesday that the assault was precipitated by a disagreement over the ownership of a small tin container. He said he had to get 11 staples in the back of his head after the assault.

Testimony in the case concluded Wednesday afternoon. The jury, consisting of seven men and five women, deliberated from 2:40 to 4 p.m., when they determined Lapoint was innocent.

Lapoint, interviewed outside the courthouse after the trial ended, said it has been a long five years of trying to resolve the allegations against him. He was interviewed by police a month or so after the incident, he said, but wasn’t charged until 2008.

Lapoint said he is happy to be acquitted, especially of the felony aggravated assault charge. He is an avid hunter, he said, and is glad he won’t have any prohibitions against possessing firearms.

“I love hunting. I love the outdoors,” Lapoint said. “I’m unbelievably happy.”

To celebrate, he added, he planned to go home and spend time with his two sons, 4 years old and 11 months old. His youngest son will celebrate his first birthday in October, he said.

“I did not want to miss that,” Lapoint said.

Powell testified Tuesday that the alleged assault occurred in a gravel pit in Sedgwick in late August 2005. He said he was at the pit with a friend when two cars drove into the pit and two young men hopped out of the cars, demanding the tin from him.

Powell said he tried to ride away on a motorbike, but was knocked off the bike and then beaten in the head with a pipe or club as he lay on the ground. He said he did not see Lapoint’s face, but said his attacker sounded like Lapoint as the man made comments while delivering blows to Powell’s head.

“At one point, he had his knee in my chest and his pocketknife out and said he was going to slit my throat and kill me,” Powell told the jury.

During closing arguments, prosecutor Mary Kellett said that more than one person told police that Lapoint had attacked Powell or had made comments about having attacked Powell.

“It all points to Jayson Lapoint,” she told the jury.

Lapoint’s defense attorney, Hunter Tzovarras of Hampden, pointed out inconsistencies in the statements and testimony of one witness and stressed that Powell never saw the face of his alleged attacker. He said that his client was not an immediate suspect in the altercation. Lapoint’s name came up only later in subsequent police interviews, he said.

“Not one person mentioned Jayson Lapoint’s name when they first talked to the police,” Tzovarras told the jury.

There also was no physical evidence in the case, Tzovarras said. Police never found a pipe or club that they believed had been used in the attack.

Tzovarras did not immediately return a message early Wednesday evening seeking comment about his client’s acquittal.

Kellett said after the verdict that the case was a difficult one to take to trial, but that it needed to be prosecuted.

“There was [circumstantial] evidence Mr. Lapoint committed this act,” she said. “The jury did their job.”

Testimony at the two-day trial included Powell’s criminal history.

In 2007, Powell was sentenced to three years in prison for trafficking in cocaine. This past July he was sentenced to an additional 3½ years in prison for assaulting an officer.

Powell’s cocaine trafficking conviction had been deferred while he was participating in drug court, but he skipped out on his required drug court appearances last year, according to officials. He assaulted a sheriff’s deputy outside a store in Southwest Harbor in November 2009 after the deputy recognized him and tried to arrest him for failing to appear in drug court. Powell punched the deputy in the face and fled into nearby woods.

He was recaptured about an hour later after several law enforcement agencies responded to the initial assault report.

The sentence on the cocaine conviction, which he began serving last November, and his sentence for assaulting the sheriff’s deputy are consecutive, meaning Powell is serving 6½ years behind bars for the two offenses.

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