State supreme court to preside over appeals cases in Bangor

Posted Nov. 08, 2010, at 9:49 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The Maine Supreme Judicial Court will hear oral arguments today and Wednesday in a dozen appeals at the Penobscot Judicial Center.

The cases from courts around the state include legal questions about divorce, personal injury, land use, labor and tax law as well as administrative and criminal matters.

An Eddington man’s challenge of his four-year sentence is expected to draw the attention of local news media and criminal attorneys.

Portland attorney Darrick Banda of Portland is expected Wednesday to argue that Superior Court Justice William Anderson illegally relied on conduct Ryan Witmer, 34, was acquitted of after a jury trial. The sentence was imposed on Dec. 29 for reckless violation of a protection order, a Class C crime that carries a maximum sentence of five years, and two counts of misdemeanor assault.

A Penobscot County jury on Nov. 2 found Witmer, who had no previous criminal record, not guilty of aggravated attempted murder, elevated aggravated assault, aggravated assault and burglary after a 5½-day trial. Witmer was accused of breaking into the Orrington home he previously had shared with his then-estranged wife and attacking her and her boyfriend late on the evening of June 28, 2008.

The boyfriend, who has a black belt in tae kwan do, a Korean self-defense art, suffered 11 stab wounds in his back. Witmer’s wife, who had taken out a protection order to keep him away from her, suffered superficial cuts to her forearms, according to court documents.

“This sentence appears to reflect the judge’s disagreement with the jury’s verdict,” Banda said after the sentencing.

Susan Pope, an assistant district attorney for Penobscot County who is handling the appeal, disagreed in a brief filed with the state’s high court. She said that Anderson relied on Witmer’s own testimony during the trial to fashion a sentence “amply justified by the record.” Pope listed 15 factors Anderson could have properly considered in deciding how long to send Witmer to prison.

Those factors included: Witmer admitted that he kicked in a locked door in the middle of the night; knew he was prohibited from being at the residence by the protection order; and admitted that he was the only one to brandish a weapon.

Civil cases the justices will consider include an appeal by:

• Anthem Health Plans of Maine of a 2009 decision by the Maine Superintendent of Insurance that the insurance company’s projected profit margin of 3 percent was excessive and that a zero projected margin was all that would be approved.

• Teamsters Local 340, which represents Hancock County employees, of a decision staying arbitration on behalf of two employees who were denied overtime pay.

• Several Washington County residents who have asked for an interpretation of the word “navigation” as it relates to walking over intertidal land to reach the ocean to scuba-dive.

There is no timetable under which the justices must issue their decisions.

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