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Judge denies new trial to man convicted of torching topless coffee shop

Joel Page | BDN
Joel Page | BDN
Raymond J. Bellavance Jr. listens to closing arguments Friday, Dec. 30, 2011, at Kennebec Superior Court in Augusta.
By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

AUGUSTA, Maine — The man convicted of torching a topless coffee shop on Route 3 in Vassalboro will not get a new trial, a Superior Court judge has ruled.

Justice Michaela Murphy last week denied motions made by an attorney for Raymond Bellavance Jr., 50, of Winthrop seeking a judgment of acquittal and a new trial.

Murphy, who presided over Bellavance’s trial in December, issued her 13-page ruling last week. It was faxed Thursday to the Bangor Daily News by the Kennebec County District Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case.

Murphy heard oral arguments on the motions on Feb. 1.

Bellavance was convicted of arson on Dec. 30 after a 10-day jury trial in connection with the fire that destroyed the Grand View Topless Coffee Shop in June 2009. He is scheduled to be sentenced 8:30 a.m. Monday, March 19.

Defense attorney Andrews Campbell of Bowdoinham argued that one of the reasons Bellavance deserved a new trial was the sudden decision of a key witness scheduled to testify for the defense to take the stand for the prosecution.

Thomas J. Mulkern, 26, of Gardiner told the jury that he saw Bellavance slosh gasoline on the coffee shop and set it ablaze in June 2009.

“Even if the jury had grave doubts about the testimony of Thomas Mulkern, multiple other witnesses were called by the state,” Murphy wrote in her decision, “that established that the defendant had made statements admitting that he was very upset and angry that Krista MacIntyre [his former girlfriend] worked at the topless coffee shop; or that he admitted to wanting to burn it down; and/or that he did burn it down.”

The judge concluded that the testimony of witnesses “would provide a sufficient basis for a rational jury to find that the state proved the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Campbell said late Thursday that he would appeal Murphy’s decision to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court after his client is sentenced.

Efforts to reach Alan Kelley, acting district attorney for Kennebec County, were unsuccessful Thursday.

Bellavance faces up to 30 years in prison.

Correction: An earlier version of this story contained a spelling error. Krista MacIntyre is the former girlfriend of Raymond Bellavance Jr., not Kirsta McIntyre.

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