Blue Hill man to serve at least two years for domestic assaults

Posted Dec. 21, 2011, at 6:04 p.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — A Blue Hill man has pleaded guilty to two assault charges and will spend at least two years behind bars, according to court documents.

Michael J. Willis, 32, had been facing six assault charges and three more gross sexual assault charges when he reached a plea deal with prosecutors last week. All but two of the assault charges were dropped in exchange for his guilty plea to the two remaining charges, according to documents filed in Hancock County Superior Court.

Willis had been accused of physically assaulting his then-girlfriend in Blue Hill on four occasions in February 2009 and then again on two occasions in Bar Harbor several months later.

As a result of his guilty pleas, Willis received an overall sentence of 10 years in prison, five for each of the assault convictions. All but two years of the first assault sentence are suspended, while all five of the second, consecutive assault sentence are suspended.

If Willis successfully completes the two years of incarceration and is released, he then will serve two years of probation for the first assault conviction and two more years of probation on the second assault conviction. Willis could face going back to prison for eight years if he violates the terms of his four years of probation.

Mary Kellett, assistant Hancock County district attorney, said Wednesday that the sentence is appropriate. Citing other cases she has prosecuted, she said defendants convicted of similar charges after trials have received similar sentences as the one Willis received last week.

Kellett said that when prosecutors consider plea deals, they have to weigh the difficulty for victims of having to testify in court and the risk of having a jury acquit a defendant. In this case, she said, Willis will not have to register as a sex offender but, for the victim, having Willis serve a significant prison sentence was more important than having him register as a sex offender.

Kellett said the two assault charges to which Willis pleaded guilty are felonies, which reflect the fact that he has two prior domestic assault convictions in Maine, one in Bangor in December 2002 and another in Newport in January 2009.

“The victims were all previous girlfriends,” Kellett said.

Willis’ defense attorney, Will Blaisdell of Ellsworth, declined Wednesday to comment on his client’s case.

The judge who presided over Willis’ sentencing, Justice Ann Murray, stayed his sentence until 9 a.m. Monday, Dec. 26, at which time he will have to report to the Hancock County Jail. Until then he has to physically report to Steve McFarland, a detective assigned to the Hancock County District Attorney’s Office, once a day until Dec. 23 and then twice a day from Dec. 23 until Dec. 26. Each time he reports to McFarland, Willis will have to tell McFarland where he will be until he next reports to the detective, according to court documents.

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