AUGUSTA, Maine — The Winslow man accused of fatally shooting a man outside a Waterville bar in December is expected to plead guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter on Wednesday, according to the attorney general’s office.
Matthew Partridge, 30, is charged with murder in connection with the death of Justin V. Smith, 26, of China, who was shot in the late hours of Dec. 4, 2012.
Maine Deputy Attorney General William Stokes said on Monday that he expects Partridge to accept a plea agreement in which he admits to the lesser charge of manslaughter.
“We anticipate a plea to manslaughter with an agreed upon sentence of 25 years with all but 15 suspended and four years of probation that will include some conditions such as no use of alcohol,” Stokes said.
He emphasized that the plea deal is subject to change until it’s entered into the record and accepted by Justice Michaela Murphy. Partridge is scheduled to appear in Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
Patridge’s attorney, Pamela Ames of Waterville, did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment on Monday.
Patridge had waived his right to a jury trial on Thursday, Stokes said. His bench trial was scheduled to begin on Monday, Aug. 12.
During Patridge’s bail hearing in December, Ames said Patridge acted in self-defense on the night of Dec. 4.
She said Smith punched Partridge in the face as Partridge sat in his pickup truck while trying to leave the Concourse near You Know Who’s Pub in Waterville.
She said the punch was enough to give Patridge two black eyes and a broken nose.
“He had a reasonable belief that he needed to use deadly force to defend himself,” Ames previously said.
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, who is prosecuting the case for the state, said during the Dec. 10 bail hearing that he disagreed with Ames’ assessment of what happened.
“The evidence is quite clear,” he said. “After the altercation, Patridge went to his truck and armed himself. He then returned to the scene. After he was struck, he took out his firearm and shot directly into the face of the victim.”
Patridge and Smith were at the bar at about 11 p.m. with different groups of friends, according to an affidavit filed by Maine State Police Detective Joshua Birmingham.
One of the two men who was with Smith at You Know Who’s Pub told Waterville police Detective Dwayne Cloutier that he and his friend were approached by two men outside the pub, when one of the men punched his friend in the face.
After he and his friend went into the bar to get Smith, they walked outside and approached a gray Dodge Dakota pickup truck parked out front, according to the affidavit.
The witness said Smith then walked up to the driver’s side window and said “Who likes to sucker punch people?”
“The driver pulled out a handgun and fired two shots at Smith and left the area,” Birmingham wrote in his report from the witness’ accounts.
One of Partridge’s friends told Waterville police Detective David Caron a slightly different story.
According to the affidavit, the witness told Caron that Partridge went into the bar to use the restroom while he waited outside. The witness said that while he was waiting, two men he did not know approached him.
“One of the men rubbed [the witness’s] leg with his own leg which offended [the witness],” read the affidavit. “[The witness] and the man engaged in a physical altercation. The man told [the witness] that he had a concealed weapons permit and [the witness] backed off.”
Partridge’s friend then told Caron that he and Partridge went to Partridge’s gray pickup. Partridge had a gun in his hand when the two drove to the area where the fight had taken place, read the affidavit.
Partridge and his friend were “approached by another man that they did not recognize,” Birmingham wrote in his affidavit. “Partridge rolled his window down and got punched in the face by the man. Partridge subsequently fired one round from his gun striking the assailant. Partridge quickly left the area.”
Smith was rushed to Thayer Hospital in Waterville, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Margaret Greenwald told police that Smith died of a single gunshot wound to the head.
After the shooting, Partridge dropped his passenger off at a friend’s house and then drove off. He was later stopped by Maine State Police Trooper Sam Tlumac for a felony traffic stop. Partridge’s vehicle matched witnesses’ description.
“You know what the problem is? I, I tried to defend myself and I wasn’t sure if I was doing it right. If I was doing the right thing,” Partridge told Tlumac during the traffic stop in a recorded conversation. “And I shot the guy.
“Like, I don’t even know why he punched me in the face. I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” Partridge said to Tlumac, according to the affidavit. “I didn’t want to do it.”
Maine State Police Sgt. Jason Richards recovered a Sig Sauer 9 mm handgun from Partridge’s truck after executing a search warrant on Dec. 5. The gun had five rounds in the magazine with one in the chamber. Partridge had a concealed weapons permit.
Partridge is being held at Kennebec County Jail in Augusta on $700,000 bail.