Judge throws out Rockland prisoner escape case

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff
Posted March 15, 2012, at 5:03 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — A judge has thrown out charges against a 29-year-old man accused of escaping from a Maine State Prison work detail.

The man’s wife, however, pleaded guilty Monday to aiding in the alleged escape and will only face a fine if she adheres to terms of a sentence agreement reached with the state.

Justice Jeffrey Hjelm granted on March 8 a motion to dismiss the indictment filed against Shawn A. Benner, citing unnecessary delays brought on by the prosecution.

Benner had been charged with escape after the state argued he left a pre-release work detail in Rockland on Oct. 9, 2010. Benner and his wife, Amanda Benner, 24, of Augusta, were stopped at gunpoint later that day in Waldoboro by Waldoboro police.

Shawn Benner had been serving a sentence at the Maine State Prison for robbery, burglary, aggravated assault and criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, according to court records.

He was indicted in January 2011, and the case eventually was set for trial during the May and June trial term in Knox County Superior Court. During that term, the district attorney’s office provided new evidence to the defense that consisted of rules and regulations for prisoners on work release programs.

The defense argued that the evidence should have been provided earlier and Justice Hjelm agreed and excluded that material from being used at trial. In response to that loss of evidence, the state dismissed the case.

Shawn Benner completed his sentence in June 2011.

The district attorney’s office presented the case again to the grand jury and obtained an indictment in July 2011 for escape.

Benner’s attorney Jeremy Pratt filed the motion to dismiss the indictment.

“The court is ultimately persuaded that there has been unnecessary delay in bringing the defendant to trial and that this actionable delay is attributable to problems affecting the state’s prosecution of the defendant,” Justice Hjelm ruled.

The judge also stated that the state fell short of its duties owed to the defendant. Justice Hjelm barred the state from bringing the charge a third time.

Amanda Benner pleaded guilty Monday to aiding escape but under terms of the deferred disposition with the district attorney’s office, that charge will be dropped and she will be convicted of the lesser charge of hindering apprehension if she refrains from further criminal conduct for a year. She will be fined $250 if she adheres to the agreement through March 2013.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/03/15/news/midcoast/judge-throws-out-rockland-prisoner-escape-case/ printed on July 13, 2014