May 21, 2018
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Orrington woman sobs after pleading not guilty to charges in connection with crash that killed friend

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — An Orrington woman sobbed uncontrollably Friday as she left the Penobscot Judicial Center after pleading not guilty to charges in connection with a car accident in April that killed a Hermon woman.

Sarah Courtney , 33, was indicted Oct. 30 by a Penobscot County grand jury on one count each of manslaughter and aggravated criminal operating under the influence of intoxicants, according to a previously published report.

Superior Court Justice Ann Murray set bail at $2,000 cash with conditions that Courtney not drink alcohol or use other intoxicants, be subject to random search and testing for the same, and have no contact with the victim’s family, friends and potential witnesses. The judge declined the Penobscot County district attorney’s office request that Courtney have no contact with her sister, husband or his employer simply because they might be called as witnesses should Courtney choose to go to trial.

Courtney left the judicial center after posting bail and signing paperwork.

Sarah Eason, 28, was a passenger in the sport utility vehicle Courtney was driving April 20. Eason was killed when she was ejected from the SUV after Courtney went around a bend, lost control and flipped her Ford Explorer on Bog Road in Hampden, according to a previously published report.

Courtney’s attorney, Richard Hartley of Bangor, said outside the courtroom after his client was arraigned that she had cooperated with investigators and the district attorney’s office. He said the last six months since the accident have been difficult for her.

“I’ve come to know Sarah since she first came to see me after the accident,” he said. “At the time she was extremely upset over the loss of her friend. She has tremendous respect for the process and looks forward to working through the process.”

Hartley declined to say whether Courtney, who has no criminal history, would change her plea to guilty when she next appears in court on March 10.

Assistant District Attorney Alice Clifford said outside the courthouse that she did not know why her office requested $2,000 cash bail. She said she was filling in for District Attorney R. Christopher Almy, who is prosecuting the case. Hartley speculated that the bail request was due to his client’s cooperation.

Eason was described in her obituary, published April 24 in the Bangor Daily News, as loved and as someone who accepted people without judgment. She previously worked at Disney World and traveled for two seasons with Fiesta Shows, where she made friends all over the world, the obituary said. Eason was an organ donor.

Family members and friends attended the arraignment but left the courthouse without speaking to reporters.

Courtney’s blood alcohol level was .14, nearly twice the legal limit of .08 percent, Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said last month. Courtney also was driving 57 mph in a 45 mph zone, he said.

Police believe Eason wasn’t wearing a seat belt. Courtney, who police believe was buckled in, appeared to have no physical injuries but was taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center as a precaution. She was released later that night, according to Hampden police Officer Shawn Devine.

If convicted, Courtney faces up to 30 years in prison on the manslaughter charge alone.

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