AUBURN, Maine — One day after his mistrial, Raikuez Melchoirre was freed from jail, where he’d spent more than two years awaiting trial in connection with a 2011 stabbing.
Melchoirre agreed to plead guilty Tuesday to a charge of aggravated assault, a Class B felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
While maintaining his innocence, Melchoirre entered a so-called “Alford plea,” acknowledging that a jury could have found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt if shown the evidence the state could present at trial.
Melchoirre, 35, of Lewiston was sentenced to two years and 97 days, or the time he has been at the Androscoggin County Jail on a charge of elevated aggravated assault. He had been held in lieu of $10,000 cash bail. Had he been found guilty of the Class A charge, he would have faced up to 30 years in prison.
A jury in Androscoggin County Superior Court had deadlocked after two and a half days of deliberations. A juror said afterward that the group split over the notion of self-defense almost from the start, with eight jurors favoring a guilty verdict and four favoring a not guilty finding.
Assistant District Attorney Andrew Matulis said that stabbing victim Richard “Buddy” Edwards Jr. was “not very happy” with the terms of the plea deal, but wanted the ordeal finished so that “he could move on with his life.”
Edwards was stabbed about 20 times in his face, shoulders, knee, chest and abdomen.
Edwards told the Sun Journal on Tuesday that the sentence is a “slap on the wrist and also a slap in my face,” but he’s ready to move on.
He said he spent 10 days in the hospital and underwent several surgeries for damages caused by the stab wounds. He suffered permanent injury to his knee and hand and arm.
Matulis said the state presented its best case during last week’s trial.
“After hearing all of the evidence in the case, the factual situation of what happened that night, there was room to believe that it could have happened differently than what a good number of the state’s witnesses were explaining when they were testifying,” Matulis said. At trial, “there was a very pronounced lack of memory on the part of all of the witnesses,” he said. “There’s no reason to believe that the case is going to get better” for the prosecution, given its age and the fact that people’s memories will continue to fade, he said.
Prosecutors portrayed the stabbing as a vicious attack by Melchoirre against Edwards during a party at 73 College St. in Lewiston on June 19, 2011.
After his first stab wound to the stomach, Edwards was hurt, bleeding and incapable of defending himself, Matulis said.
Defense attorney Maurice Porter painted an image of Edwards as a drunken thug and the incident as an “ambush,” during which Edwards leaped from the dark and jumped on the back of Melchoirre.
After drinking for hours at the party, the two men ended up in a fistfight, then a short time later fought again. During the second fight, Melchoirre stabbed Edwards, witnesses said.
During deliberations, the jury asked that portions of testimony be read back, that Justice Carl Bradford repeat his instructions on what legally justifies self-defense and to get a closer look at a buck knife — the apparent weapon — recovered at the scene.