March 20, 2019
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Maine man gets 5-year sentence for crash that killed his best friend

Courtesy of Hancock County Jail
Courtesy of Hancock County Jail
Francis Spinazola

A Castine man was ordered to serve 18 months behind bars in connection with a fatal crash in November 2016.

Francis “Joe” Spinazola, 56, pleaded no contest Tuesday to a charge of manslaughter and received an overall sentence of 5 years in prison with all but 18 months suspended. Spinzola was driving a GMC sport-utility vehicle on Nov. 19, 2016 in Castine when it went off Route 166A and rolled, ejecting passengers Ronald Bakeman of Orland and Spinazola’s wife, Cheryl Spinazola, from the vehicle.

Bakeman, 56, died at the scene but Cheryl Spinazola suffered injuries that weren’t life-threatening. No one was wearing seatbelts when the SUV went off the road, police said.

Norman “Toff” Toffolon, deputy district attorney for Hancock County, told Justice Bruce Mallonee on Tuesday that Francis Spinazola had taken four Oxycontin painkiller pills that day and had been drinking prior to the crash. Spinazola had a blood-alcohol content after the crash of 0.17 percent, which is twice the legal limit in Maine of 0.08 percent for driving a motor vehicle, the prosecutor said.

Christine West, who was Bakeman’s fiancee at the time of the crash, and his sister Priscilla Robinson told Mallonee about the impact Bakeman’s death had on their lives.

“My life was totally flipped upside down,” West told the judge, her voice cracking with emotion. “This was a completely preventable accident if Mr. Spinazola had chosen not to drive that evening.”

Robinson said her brother’s death has been hard on their mother, who lives at an assisted living facility in Bucksport.

“He was in the prime of his life and had everything to live for,” Robinson said.

Spinazola also addressed the judge. He said he thinks of Bakeman first thing every day when he wakes up and again every night when he goes to sleep.

“Ron and I were best friends for 30 years,” Spinazola said. “My heart breaks.”

In addition to spending 18 months in prison, Spinazola was ordered to serve 4 years of probation after he is released. He also pleaded no contest to a charge of criminal operating a motor vehicle under the influence of intoxicants and received a concurrent 30-day sentence along with a $500 fine and a 150-day suspension of his driver’s license.

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