BANGOR, Maine — The Bradford auto mechanic convicted of manslaughter in the crowbar beating death of a neighbor was sentenced Wednesday at the Penobscot Judicial Center to 14 years in prison with all but seven years suspended.
Peter Robinson, 50, faced up to 30 years behind bars in the November 12, 2011, death of David P. Trask, 71, of Hudson.
In addition to prison time, Superior Court Justice William Anderson sentenced Robinson to four years of probation.
Robinson and his wife, Cheryl Robinson, both told members of the Trask family that they were sorry for their loss. Seventy letters from friends, customers and community members were submitted to the court in support of Peter Robinson, the judge said.
“We have both lost everything we worked so hard for,” she told Anderson. “Pete will be punished his whole life for this. It never leaves his mind. Please let us pick up the pieces of our life and move on.”
Eight members of the Trask family spoke emotionally to Anderson about how the loss of David P. Trask has impacted them. All urged the judge to impose the maximum sentence.
“Peter Robinson stole my husband’s life,” the victim’s widow, Ruth Trask, told the judge. “He should have the longest sentence possible. Our lives were forever changed that day.”
A jury of seven men and five women on April 2 found Robinson not guilty of murder but guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter following a seven-day trial. The jury deliberated for about eight hours over two days before announcing its verdict.
If he had been found guilty of murder, Robinson would be facing between 25 years and life in prison.
Robinson testified that he acted in self-defense after more than a decade of disputes with Trask, his brothers and other family members. The disputes were over the Trasks hunting with dogs on Robinson’s land and the Trasks leaving an access gate unlocked.
He testified that he thought the cellphone holder on Trask’s belt was a holster with a gun in it and he feared Trask would shoot him. Robinson also testified that he took the 15-pound crowbar away from the older man before striking him in the ribs and jaw. The final blow to Trask’s face was delivered once he was on the ground, according to testimony during the trial.
“I feared for my life,” Robinson told the judge Wednesday. “I never meant to hurt anyone.”
The victim’s son, David A. Trask told reporters after the verdict was announced that he and his family feel that “Peter Robinson got away with murder.”
“We are not happy with the verdict, but we have to live with it,” the victim’s son said at an impromptu press conference outside the courthouse April 2 where he acted as the family spokesman. “As far as I’m concerned Peter Robinson got away with murder but manslaughter is better than his walking away a free man.”
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, who prosecuted the case, recommended that Robinson be sentenced to 30 years in prison with all but 20 suspended and four years of probation.
Defense attorney Thomas Hallett of Portland urged the judge to sentence his client to 10 years in prison with all but three suspended and four years of probation.