Jury hears conflicting stories in prison assault trial

Posted June 18, 2013, at 12:44 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — A dispute over feeding birds outside the Bolduc Correctional Center in Warren last year caused an inmate to punch another prisoner and break the man’s jaw in two places.

That was the testimony offered Tuesday in Knox County Superior Court in the trial of 41-year-old David R. Beal, who is accused of aggravated assault.

The attorney for Beal said his client denies any involvement and cautioned jurors that they would hear conflicting statements from the alleged victim in the case.

Beal and the alleged victim were both inmates at the Bolduc unit, known as the prison farm, when the incident occurred Sept. 8. Both have since completed their terms and been released.

The alleged victim told jurors Tuesday that the incident began when his fiancee and her mother came to visit on the grounds of the prison farm. The three were eating at a picnic table when his fiancee dropped some potato chips and tossed them out on the grass, which attracted some birds.

A prisoner at another table told them to stop feeding the birds. The alleged victim testified that he politely told the man, whom he did not know, to enjoy his visit.

The alleged victim said he was concerned that something might later come of the brief interaction and mentioned it to a guard when he went back inside after the visit.

Later that day, the man said he was in his dorm room opening his locker when he got punched on the side of his face from behind. He said he then saw the man, who had warned him not to feed the birds, standing over him.

The alleged victim said he immediately sought medical treatment and told the first guard he saw that he had injured himself falling. The former inmate said that because he did not want to report on another inmate in the presence of prisoners.

“There’s a saying: snitches get stitches,” the man said.

He was taken aside by guards and immediately told them what had happened. They showed him a book of mugshots of inmates and he picked out Beal.

The alleged victim said he was coughing up blood, he was in a lot of pain and his glasses were broken.

Dr. James Curtis, an emergency room physician at Pen Bay Medical Center, testified Tuesday that he treated the man and determined his jaw was broken in two places. The doctor tried to find an oral surgeon to treat the man on that Saturday evening but the only place he could find one that would be able to take the case that weekend was at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The prison declined to move the prisoner to Massachusetts for security reasons, the doctor said.

The alleged victim was then taken to the Maine State Prison’s infirmary and on Monday to Maine Medical Center in Portland, where two metal plates were inserted in his jaw.

The man said he still has pain in his jaw, can only eat soft foods and can chew only on one side of his mouth.

Defense attorney Jonathan Handelman, in his opening statements Tuesday, told jurors that his client denies that he assaulted the other man. The alleged victim made conflicting statements that will provide enough doubt for a not-guilty verdict, Handelman said.

The defense attorney also said that guards checked Beal’s knuckles that day and found no bruising, cuts or even redness which would have been present if he had struck someone with such force.

Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Baroody is the prosecutor for the case. Justice Jeffrey Hjelm is presiding over the trial which is scheduled to continue Wednesday.

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