Belfast man ordered to serve 9 years in shooting death of friend

Luke Bryant sits at the defendant's table Tuesday morning, Aug. 7, 2012 during the opening day of his manslaughter trial for the 2011 gunshot death of his 19-year-old friend Tyler Seaney.
Luke Bryant sits at the defendant's table Tuesday morning, Aug. 7, 2012 during the opening day of his manslaughter trial for the 2011 gunshot death of his 19-year-old friend Tyler Seaney.
Posted Oct. 03, 2012, at 7:44 p.m.
Tyler Seaney
Tyler Seaney

BELFAST, Maine — The 21-year-old convicted of manslaughter in August for the 2011 shooting death of his friend was ordered Wednesday afternoon to serve 9 years in prison for the crime.

A Waldo County jury two months ago found Luke Bryant, 21, of Belfast, guilty of killing 19-year-old Tyler Seaney. Bryant had shot Seaney in the neck with a shotgun the evening of Feb. 19, 2011, at Bryant’s apartment on a remote country road. Seaney’s girlfriend, who also was in the apartment at the time of his death, told police after the shooting that Bryant and Seaney used to play the “scare game,” during which they would point and dry-fire guns at each other in order to startle the other person. Bryant told police that he hadn’t known the shotgun was loaded when he aimed it at his friend and pulled the trigger.

During the trial, defense attorney Steven Peterson of Rockport asserted that his client had been pressured by police into admitting he had played the controversial game.

Justice Robert Murray handed down Bryant’s sentence at the end of the Waldo County Superior Court hearing Wednesday. He sentenced Bryant to 15 years in prison with all but 9 years suspended. Bryant also was ordered to serve four years probation when he gets out, pay $3,158 as restitution for the crime and forfeit the firearm used to kill Seaney. Bryant is not allowed to own, possess or use any firearm or dangerous weapon, according to court documents filed Wednesday in connection with his sentencing.

“The state’s very satisfied with the sentence imposed here today,” Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea said Wednesday afternoon after the hearing was concluded. “Certainly, it reflected the seriousness of the defendant’s conduct and the high level of recklessness involved in Tyler Seaney’s death.”

Since his August conviction, Bryant has been held without bail. He faced up to 30 years in prison, with a minimum sentence of four years.

During the sentencing hearing, family and friends of both Bryant and Seaney addressed the court.

After the conviction, Bryant’s cousin, Jasmine Sawyer, said that “there were two lives lost in this situation.”

Members of Bryant’s church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Belfast, said that he is a good person who made a mistake.

Seaney’s family members told the Bangor Daily News in mid-August that his loss has left a hole in their lives that they haven’t started to figure out how to fill.

They described Tyler Seaney as a colorful, compassionate and inspirational young man who was ready to begin basic training for the Army and who has left them with memories that make them smile. They said that he was a teenager who constantly joked around, was kind to troubled teens and who blossomed on stage as an actor.

“It’s taken away so much,” Christopher Seaney said of his brother’s death. “It changes everything.”

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