Judge denies Lewiston man’s plea withdrawal in stabbing at party

Posted Aug. 07, 2012, at 6:42 a.m.
Raikuez Melchoirre listens to Justice Robert Clifford in Androscoggin County Superior Court last week where he was asking to change his plea.
Russ Dillingham | Sun Journal
Raikuez Melchoirre listens to Justice Robert Clifford in Androscoggin County Superior Court last week where he was asking to change his plea.

AUBURN, Maine — A judge Monday denied a Lewiston man’s request to withdraw his earlier guilty plea to an elevated aggravated assault charge stemming from a stabbing last year at a Lewiston party.

Raikuez Melchoirre, 35, of 209 Lincoln St. pleaded guilty in March to the Class A felony, which is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

Melchoirre had entered an “Alford plea,” allowing him to assert his innocence while acknowledging that the state has enough evidence that a jury could find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

On Monday, his attorney, George Hess, argued that Melchoirre should be allowed to withdraw his plea because he had been confused and misunderstood the process at the time he entered his plea.

Assistant District Attorney Andrew Matulis said the court took “great pains to make sure that the defendant knew exactly what was going on and he knew what he was doing and he was making a knowing and voluntary choice.”

In January, Melchoirre’s case came up for trial, Matulis said. The case was continued at Melchoirre’s request for a new trial date and he changed attorneys. A jury was picked for the second trial date in March.

Should the judge allow Melchoirre to withdraw his plea, Matulis said, “This would be the third time that the state has gone through and prepared for trial and I think that’s very prejudicial against the state.”

The case is more than a year old and has to do with late-night partying and drinking.

“The passage of time is going to create a tactical advantage for the defendant,” Matulis said. “Peoples’ memories are going to fade and the state may or may not be able to get all of these people under subpoena.”

In ruling for the state, Active-Retired Justice Robert Clifford said Melchoirre “seemed to know what he was doing” when he entered his guilty plea. He passed up two trial dates then took months after his plea to change his mind, Clifford said.

The agreement struck between Melchoirre and prosecutors at the time of his March plea hearing capped his sentence at 10 years.

Prosecutors are expected to seek a five-year sentence at an upcoming sentencing hearing; Melchoirre is expected to argue for less time than that based on his claim that he acted in self-defense when he stabbed Richard “Buddy” Edwards Jr. in 2011.

Melchoirre has been jailed on $7,000 cash bail since his arrest in June 2011.

Edwards had been at the Androscoggin County courthouse during the discussions between Melchoirre’s attorney and the assistant district attorney handling the case and voiced his frustration with the delay.

According to Matulis, Edwards arrived at a beer pong party at a friend’s third-floor apartment at 73 College St. at around 9 p.m. June 19. Melchoirre arrived there around midnight.

The two got into a fight that led to Edwards being stabbed multiple times with 6-inch buck-style knife, according to Matulis.

Edwards was taken by ambulance to Central Maine Medical Center, where he underwent emergency surgery for abdominal wounds. According to Matulis, Edwards has lost the feeling in three fingers and has a permanent injury to a knee.

At the sentencing hearing, Melchoirre will be permitted to make an argument that he felt threatened by Edwards. Edwards will also be allowed to speak to the court.

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