June 20, 2018
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Prisoner backs out of plea deal, claims shovel assault affected his thinking

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — A 28-year-old Maine State Prison inmate backed out of an agreement Thursday to plead guilty to sexually assaulting a health care worker at the prison, claiming he was nearly killed weeks earlier when a convicted murderer beat him.

When James E. Brensinger appeared in Knox County Superior Court Thursday, he was expected to plead guilty to one count of unlawful sexual contact as part of an agreement reached between his defense attorney and the prosecutor. In exchange, a separate assault charge would be dropped, and Brensinger would be sentenced to an additional year in prison.

But when Justice Jeffrey Hjelm asked Brensinger if he was in agreement with the deal, the defendant at first hesitated and then said his ability to understand things was affected by a beating he took from a shovel wielding prisoner in January.

Guy Hunnewell, 43, was indicted earlier this year for aggravated assault in connection with the Jan. 28 beating of Brensinger. Hunnewell also was indicted for murder in connection with the June 25 death of fellow prisoner Alan D. Powell.

Brensinger is serving a sentence at the Maine State Prison for unlawful sexual contact. He is scheduled to be released no earlier than 2019.

During Thursday’s hearing, he said he has no family, is a registered sex offender and will not be able to get a job when he gets out.

“I can’t afford to go out on the streets,” he said, adding that the economy is not good.

Then he also said, “I’d rather not sit but fight and defend myself.” He added that he wanted hospital records that show the extent of his injuries from the shovel beating.

Since Brensinger did not accept the plea, Hjelm said the case would be scheduled for trial.

No details about the new charges against Brensinger were brought up during Thursday’s hearing or included in the court documents.

Brensinger is represented by attorney Jeremy Pratt.

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