BATH, Maine — A 52-year-old Bath man previously convicted of manslaughter and assault with a dangerous weapon was sentenced Thursday to spent 20 years in prison for repeatedly stabbing another man on Middle Street in September 2010.
Sagadahoc County Superior Court Justice Andrew Horton sentenced James M. Manley to 22 years in prison with two years suspended and six years of probation for the Class A felony elevated aggravated assault.
A jury convicted Manley of that crime in May, but found him not guilty on lesser crimes of terrorizing with a dangerous weapon and obstructing report of a crime.
According to Sagadahoc County Assistant District Attorney Patricia Mador, Manley and the victim, a 41-year-old man, both lived in a rooming house on Middle Street when the May 19, 2010, stabbing occurred.
“The defendant essentially blind-sided [the victim] as he was coming out of his bedroom,” said Mador, who told Horton that Manley stabbed the man in the back, neck and triceps.
The victim then walked several blocks to the Bath police station, and physical evidence of blood loss, as well as the testimony of an orthopedic surgeon who treated the victim, was presented to the jury at trial.
The knife severed the radial nerve in the victim’s arm, according to District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau, causing him to lose most of the function in that arm.
On Thursday afternoon, the victim held that arm out for Horton to see, then began to cry.
“This has been such an impact on my life, the loss of my left arm,” he said, standing less than 10 feet from Manley. “It brought me to the point of taking my own life … the way he went about going at me with a utility knife, I would feel so much safer if he could get the maximum possible.”
Mador argued Thursday for the maximum sentence allowable — 30 years in prison — due to Manley’s history of violent crimes and the impact of the crime on the victim.
In April 1991 in Massachusetts, Manley was charged with murder, but pleaded to manslaughter and served more than 10 years in prison, according to Mador. In that crime, Manley stabbed a man with a knife.
He then was convicted in Boston in August 2009 of assault with a deadly weapon — also a knife, Mador said, adding, “It’s just striking how similar that act is [to this crime].”
Manley’s attorney, David Paris, objected when Mador began to list a number of other alleged crimes for which Manley had not been charged. Horton allowed Mador to continue, but said he would not weigh those allegations as heavily as those for which Manley was convicted.
“How many people does he have to kill with a knife before he is removed from society and cannot kill, maim or injure anyone else?” Mador asked.
Paris told Horton the request for a 30-year-sentence was “outrageous,” and presented a neuropsychological evaluation of Manley that he said was “completely at odds” with a pre-sentencing report presented by Mador.
But while Paris said the evaluation he presented indicates “a low overall risk of future violent behaviors,” he acknowledged that Manley maintains he is not guilty of the stabbing in Bath last year.
Horton then asked Paris, “He claims [the victim] stabbed himself?”
Despite a hand signal from Paris to be quiet, Manley nodded and responded, “Yes.”
“The evidence [at trial] was Mr. Manley was in [the victim’s] room … and the location of the stab wounds suggest [the victim] would have had to be an acrobat to have stabbed himself,” Horton said.
“But isn’t that a moot point right now?” Paris asked, moving on with his presentation. He argued that the neuropsychological evaluation shows Manley is “a person who would go out of his way to do the right thing,” and argued against imposing a greater sentence for the current crime than Manley received for his conviction for manslaughter.
Prior to the sentencing, Manley spoke on his own behalf. He said the 1991 manslaughter conviction resulted from an incident in which another man “attacked me three times and was choking me to death,” at which point Manley said he wielded a knife to defend himself. “In Boston (in 2008), one of them pulled a knife on me … when I do something, I take full responsibility for what I do … This I didn’t do.”
Horton then imposed his sentence, which could keep Manley behind bars for the next 20 years.
Horton cited two “very aggravating” factors that led to the lengthy sentence: The impact of this stabbing on the victim and Manley’s previous convictions for violent crimes.
The victim has “struggled with mental illness,” Horton said, “and for someone with a mental illness, I have no doubt being victimized has had a very serious emotional as well as a physical impact. I’m not surprised to hear he has thought of taking his own life.”
Of Manley’s history, Horton said, “What this tells me was this was the third time he has assaulted someone with a knife and the first time [it happened], someone died. That suggests Mr. Manley hasn’t gotten the message.”
Rushlau said Thursday that Manley’s case may be unprecedented in Maine.
“I don’t remember anybody in Maine’s judicial system who’s been convicted of a homicide and then committed a serious violent crime,” he said.
Paris said Manley will likely appeal the conviction and sentence on “evidentiary issues and sufficiency of evidence.”
Of the courtroom discussion about Manley’s claim that the victim stabbed himself, Paris said the jury in May acquitted Manley on two lesser charges, but took nearly two days to return a verdict on the elevated aggravated assault charge, “so the jury was really struggling with whether [the defendant] really inflicted the wounds himself. I was a bit surprised the judge brought up the issue of whether we suggested the wounds were self-inflicted. Obviously, that was what the jury was struggling with.”