FARMINGTON, Maine — A Franklin County justice sentenced a former University of Maine at Farmington student Friday to 10 years with all but 20 months suspended for the accidental shooting death of his best friend in May.
Ryan Ouimet, 24, of Colts Neck, N.J., pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Franklin County Superior Court in the death of Andrew Holland, 23, of Cape Elizabeth on May 31 in Farmington.
Ouimet and Holland graduated from UMF earlier in May.
Justice Michaela Murphy also sentenced Ouimet to four years’ probation and 100 hours of community service speaking to students at high and middle schools about the dangers of mixing drugs and guns. He was ordered not to use or possess alcohol or illegal drugs during probation and has to submit to random testing.
Murphy also ordered him to pay up to $15,000 in burial and medical expenses to Holland’s family.
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson said that the state, Ouimet and his attorney, Michael Cunniff, and the Holland family worked out the plea agreement. The manslaughter charge’s wording was amended to not include the minimum mandatory sentence of four years in prison.
Benson said if the case had gone to trial, testimony would have been heard that best friends Ouimet, Holland and Caroline Halloran were at their apartment at 117 High St. Halloran would testify that the three had smoked marijuana and Ouimet took out his semiautomatic handgun. He and Holland popped the magazine in and out as they passed the gun between them.
Testimony would also show that Ouimet had the gun last, and he was dancing around to music and leaned over to change the channel on the radio when the gun went off.
The bullet hit Holland in the abdomen.
Other testimony would show that a male caller identifying himself as Ryan Ouimet called 911 to report the shooting. Emergency responders would testify that when they arrived, Ouimet was applying pressure to Holland’s abdomen.
Police would testify that Ouimet was heard in the cruiser saying, “Oh, my God, what have I done?” He called himself stupid several times.
“Why was I playing with it? It is not a toy. Andy, please fight. God save him,” Ouimet was heard saying in the cruiser.
There would also be testimony that the gun was working properly, including the safety. For the gun to go off, someone would have to pull the trigger, testimony would show.
The medical examiner would testify that the autopsy on Holland revealed that he died of a single gunshot to the abdomen that struck his kidney and liver, Benson said. Holland died at 10:37 p.m. at a Farmington hospital, a little over an hour after he was shot, Benson said.
Murphy gave Ouimet his rights, including having the case go to a grand jury and to jury trial. She told him the state would have to prove that he caused the death of Holland recklessly or by criminal negligence.
Ouimet had no criminal record, Benson said.
He said Holland was awake and talking to people after he was shot at 9:30 p.m. He said Ouimet took responsibility from the beginning and tried to save his friend’s life.
Holland’s parents, Ward and Lynne Holland, his sister Carolyn, several other family members and friends spoke about Holland, their loss and sadness. They said they were a close-knit family. Holland was described as being intelligent and set on being a teacher. He loved history, especially the Civil War, and was interested in politics and activism.
Lynne Holland said that on behalf of her son she plans to fight for required gun education before someone buys a gun.
Ward Holland said he had to take a leave of absence from work.
“For me right now, every day is a struggle,” he said. “Things that are simple are not.”
He said his son and Ouimet were good friends, true friends.
“My heart goes out to Ryan and his family,” Holland said. Knowing that Ouimet had to be sentenced didn’t make matters easier, Holland said.
As Holland spoke, tears ran down Ouimet’s face.
Cunniff thanked the Holland family for compassion on behalf of the Ouimet family and for allowing him to grieve and heal with dignity.
When Ryan Ouimet spoke to the court, he described Holland as being like a brother to him. He said he was intelligent and caring. He apologized to Holland’s family and friends for the hurt he caused and said he was ready to face the consequences.
He pledged that when he finished his sentence, he would live his life and one for Andrew in memory and honor of him.
“I hope I make him half as proud of me as I was of him,” Ouimet said.
(c)2011 the Sun Journal (Lewiston, Maine)
Distributed by MCT Information Services