AUBURN, Maine — Leein Hinkley was sentenced Tuesday — his 32nd birthday — to serve 20 years in prison in the 2011 stabbing of his former girlfriend and a good Samaritan who attempted to intervene.
Five years of that sentence were suspended, and he was ordered to serve six years of probation following his release in 2027.
Hinkley, of Sabattus, pleaded guilty to felony charges of elevated aggravated assault and aggravated assault in February, with the understanding that his sentence would be capped at 20 years and he would spend no more than 15 years behind bars. Had he been found guilty at trial, he could have been sentenced to 30 years.
Hinkley also was ordered to pay $2,000 in restitution to John Clark, the man who attempted to stop Hinkley from stabbing Jennifer Alexander. Clark had no health insurance to pay for surgery to repair his knife wound.
Sitting in Androscoggin County Superior Court, Hinkley was noticeably thinner than when he was arrested. His hair was cut shorter and he had shaved his goatee in favor of a soul patch.
He listened intently as Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Worden made his case for a 20-year prison term. According to Worden, Alexander “lives in fear, constant fear,” and she deserves to have some peace of mind through Hinkley’s incarceration.
Worden said Alexander was too afraid to be near Hinkley in the courtroom and remained in the nearby district attorney’s office during the hearing. Clark did not attend the hearing either, Worden said, because he was trying to get on with his life and to distance himself from the stabbing.
This was, Worden said, “nothing less than a savage attack of a mother in front of her child” and of a “good Samaritan who came to her aid.”
Even though Alexander was not in the court, Worden apologized to her, saying the state failed in its duty to protect her, knowing that Hinkley had a long criminal history that included a conviction for domestic violence assault and an accusation of rape.
“How Mr. Hinkley was not identified as the ticking time bomb that he is,” Worden said, is regrettable. “Someone in the court system should have been paying attention. We could have done better.”
According to court records, on Feb. 27, 2011, John Clark of Lisbon heard shouting coming from his driveway. When he went outside to investigate, he saw a man punching a woman as they sat in a small car in his driveway.
Clark approached the car and asked the woman, Alexander, if she needed help. Hinkley had threatened to kill her and had stabbed her several times. As Clark tried to free Alexander from her seat belt, Hinkley stabbed him in the shoulder.
Once Alexander was out of the car, Hinkley drove away with the couple’s 14-month-old son in the back seat.
According to Worden, Hinkley has a substantial substance-abuse problem and is preoccupied with having power over others. In a pre-sentencing memo provided to the court, Hinkley was described as egocentric, jealous and narcissistic.
“Mr. Hinkley is beyond the help of the system, but we can protect his victims” by incarcerating him, Worden said.
In making his case for a shorter, 12-year sentence, Hinkley’s attorney, George Hess, disagreed with the prosecutor’s assessment that the stabbing was a planned attack and that Hinkley was beyond rehabilitation.
“We’re talking about a pocketknife here,” Hess said. “They had an argument and things escalated and, unfortunately, Miss Alexander was seriously hurt.”
“I know he’s ashamed of his actions,” Hess said of Hinkley, and struggles with some personality disturbances that are likely the result of a difficult upbringing.
Even so, Hess said, “incarceration will not rehabilitate my client. We must punish, we must deter and we must protect. We must also rehabilitate.”
A lesser sentence, Hess argued, would punish Hinkley and also “provide us an opportunity, on probation, to address the behaviors that have brought us here today.”
Hinkley and Alexander were together five years when Alexander tried to end their relationship early last year. In a letter to the court, Hinkley said, “My relationship with Jen was fine until” another man “entered our lives.” That explanation, Worden said, indicates that Hinkley blames others for pushing him into attacking Alexander and that he did not take responsibility for his actions.
“He would have us believe he is the victim here,” Worden said.
Three members of Hinkley’s family, including his mother, Kelly Hinkley, and one of his best friends, offered testimony in support of a lesser sentence.
“I know Leein is a good kid,” his mother said, wiping away tears. “I don’t think he deserves what he’s been getting,” she said, particularly since he had such a difficult childhood.
Hinkley’s father, Leon Hinkley, said he raised all three of his children and that Leein “was a good boy but got running with the wrong crowd.”
“I believe he did wrong,” Leon Hinkley said. “But jail ain’t going to help him. He needs help in his head.”
After addressing the court, both of Hinkley’s parents wished him a happy birthday.
Noel Hinkley, Hinkley’s younger sister, sobbed loudly as she addressed Justice MaryGay Kennedy.
“This is really hard for me because I’m a friend of the victim,” she said, and she also is close to her brother.
“It kills me to see his son and everything he’s missing out on,” she said, but “he’s a good person at heart … drugs and alcohol made him crazy.”
Addressing the court himself, Leein Hinkley said the stabbing was a “tragic accident. I pay for this every day of my life.”
He asked the court to consider a lesser sentence. “I’m asking for a chance in life. My family needs me. My son. My dad.”
“I’m truly sorry for what happened,” he said.
Kennedy was not swayed by the family’s pleas and tears, or by their explanations that Hinkley’s actions were the result of a personality disturbance since no evidence of that was found in a court-ordered mental health evaluation last year.
She pointed out that state officials, including Gov. Paul LePage, have made “domestic violence public enemy No. 1.”
“It is not something that can be tolerated,” she said, even if a person has endured a tough childhood.
“This victim was a family member, the mother of his child,” Kennedy said, and when Alexander wanted to break off their relationship, “Mr. Hinkley had a hard time accepting this.”
As part of Hinkley’s plea deal, a charge of attempted murder was dropped, but Kennedy said she is certain Alexander would have been killed if Clark had not intervened.
“I’m concerned, Mr. Hinkley, that you love her to death,” and would attempt to revive their relationship when released from jail. Looking directly at him, Kennedy said she would honor the 20-year sentencing cap reached as part of his plea deal, but, “I would have made it higher.”
“I’m just not sure how remorseful you are,” she said, or that he had taken full responsibility. “You are blaming someone else here for your past crimes” and the pre-sentencing report indicates a high chance that Hinkley will commit another violent crime when released.
After Kennedy ordered the 20-year sentence and lengthy probation, a tearful Hinkley turned to his family and shook his head slightly. His father responded by shaking his own head, and family and friends left the courtroom before Hinkley was finished signing the paperwork acknowledging his sentence.
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