Attorney: 50-year sentence too long for failed murder, arson attempt

Posted Nov. 21, 2013, at 8:01 a.m.
Last modified Nov. 21, 2013, at 7:14 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Andrew Freeman, 22, of Paris was convicted in December 2011 of trying to kill his ex-girlfriend and burn down the house she and two others were living in, but he failed miserably at his attempted crimes, his attorney Thursday told the Maine Supreme Judicial Court at the Penobscot Judicial Center.

Freeman was sentenced to 50 years in prison with all but 40 years suspended after being convicted on one count each of aggravated attempted murder, arson and burglary, Jeremy Pratt of Camden told the justices.

Pratt argued the sentence did not fit the crime.

“No one was harmed, there was no physical damage, and no restitution was claimed,” he said. “He’s 21 with almost no criminal history.”

“Do we give the benefit of the doubt to someone who fails at what they tried to do, which was to set fire to an old house in Oxford County without a fire department close by?” Justice Ellen Gorman asked.

Freeman also disabled the phones in the house after he broke in, Justice Joseph Jabar said.

“Where do you suggest the basic sentence should have begun?” Jabar asked.

“Twenty years,” Pratt replied.

Joseph O’Connor, assistant district attorney for Oxford County, disagreed.

“The fact that a person is incompetent in the execution of his crimes is not a mitigating circumstance,” the prosecutor said. “That failure doesn’t change his intent.”

O’Connor said that Freeman had a tragic history that included being removed from his home at the age of 7 for setting fires. By the time he was 10, the parents of neighborhood girls had received protection from abuse orders against Freeman because he was acting out sexually toward them, he said.

“It’s a tragic history, to be sure,” the prosecutor said.

In addition to appealing Freeman’s sentence, Pratt also has appealed his convictions.

Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Donald Alexander recused himself from the appeal because he presided at Freeman’s trial and imposed the sentence.

Pratt on Thursday argued a second case before the justices.

Elfido Marroquin-Aldana, 32, a Guatemalan national who was in the U.S. illegally, is serving a 24-year sentence for sexually assaulting a 5-year-old Damariscotta girl in June 2011, according to the Lincoln County News.

The defense attorney has claimed that Superior Court Justice Jeffrey Hjelm erred when he denied Marroquin-Aldana’s trial attorney, Sherry Tash of Whitefield, access to the immigration records of the victim’s mother; failed to provide adequate interpretation services during the trial; denied Marroquin-Aldana’s motions to continue the trial and found the victim competent to testify.

Pratt said after oral arguments that Tash was denied access to the girl’s mother’s immigration record because it was part of privileged communications between the woman and her attorney.

“My client’s right to a fair trial trumps attorney-client privilege,” he said.

Justices also heard oral arguments Tuesday and Wednesday.

There is no timetable under which the justices must issue a decision.

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