Trenton man pleads guilty in violent, fatal party case

Posted March 09, 2012, at 12:47 p.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — A Trenton man pleaded guilty this week in Hancock County to charges stemming from a December 2009 party that resulted in one teen being stabbed and another dying of hypothermia.

Austin Kleffman, 23, also pleaded guilty on Monday in Hancock County Superior Court to a separate drug trafficking charge.

According to court documents, Kleffman sold oxycodone to another person in a November 2010 transaction in Ellsworth that was being monitored by the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.

He also pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of failure to appear in court in November 2011 and again this past January.

Kleffman’s sentencing has been scheduled for Friday, March 16, in Hancock County Superior Court.

The Dec. 11, 2009, party, held in the woods off Oak Point Road, resulted in the death of Benjamin Britt, 20, of Bar Harbor.

Britt’s body was found in the woods early the next morning after police received a report that another attendee at the party had gone to Mount Desert Island Hospital in Bar Harbor for treatment of a superficial stab wound. When police arrived, they were told Britt had wandered off in the sub-freezing temperatures into the woods. Britt died from apparent hypothermia, police said.

Police who investigated the incident said people at the gathering had been drinking vodka as they hung out by a campfire and a makeshift shelter.

According to Kleffman’s defense attorney, Jeffrey Toothaker of Ellsworth, his client decided to plead guilty because police had separate audio and video recordings of him selling the oxycodone pill and of him buying vodka for the party.

But Toothaker added that it is not clear that the vodka purchased by Kleffman was a major factor in Britt’s death. He declined to elaborate on what other factors may have been involved.

“It didn’t cause the death,” Toothaker said.

Kleffman made an open plea, Toothaker said, which means there is no agreement about what kind of sentence Kleffman may receive.

Because Kleffman twice failed to appear for scheduled court hearings in recent months, he remains in custody at Hancock County Jail pending his sentencing, a jail official said Thursday.

Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.

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