News Feature

Castine
Web exclusive, August 7, 2018
Castine man sentenced in 2016 OUI fatality

Sentencing

Francis “Joe” Spinazola, left, stands at his sentencing August 7 in Hancock County Superior Court, with his attorney, Robert Van Horn.

Photo by Anne Berleant Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Anne Berleant

Twenty months after Francis “Joe” Spinazola lost control of his 2003 GMC pickup truck on Castine Road, causing the death of passenger 56-year-old Ronald Bakeman of Orland, he was sentenced to five years in prison with all but 18 months suspended. He was charged with Class A manslaughter, and faced up to a 30-year sentence.

Spinazola pleaded “no contest” to the charge in Hancock County Superior Court on August 7, and to a misdemeanor charge of criminal operating under the influence. Spinazola’s wife, Cheryl, was also injured in the crash.

“From a legal standpoint, [Spinazola’s] no contest plea is an acceptance of responsibility,” Judge Michael Roberts said.

In sentencing Spinazola, Roberts followed an agreement reached between the District Attorney’s Office and Spinazola, after extensive conferences with the district attorney’s office and intense scrutiny by Judge Roberts and Judge Robert Murray.

At the time of the crash Spinazola had been drinking all day and had taken four oxycodone pills, Assistant District Attorney Toff Toffolon said, according to a statement Spinazola made to the police. Spinazola’s blood alcohol level was 0.17, over twice the legal limit for driving.

For the criminal OUI charge, Spinazola received a 30-day concurrent sentence, a $500 fine and a 150-day license suspension, with Judge Roberts noting that the administrative license penalty would likely be much harsher.

After his release, Spinazola will serve four years of probation, seek substance abuse evaluation and treatment, and submit to searches for alcohol and drugs.

Bakeman’s partner, Christine West, and his sister, Priscilla Robinson, both addressed the court.

“Castine has lost a piece of history,” West said. “[Through] Mr. Spinazola’s egregious choice to drive significantly impaired, Mr. Bakeman’s life was needlessly cut short.”

Robinson told the court that Bakeman’s family felt an eight-year sentence, with all but three years suspended, would have been appropriate: “He was 56 years old and in the prime of his life.”

Both cried while reading their statements. Spinazola then spoke, his voice breaking, of holding his friend in his arms as he died.

“He’s the first thing I think of in the morning and the last thing at night. He was the big brother I never had and my heart aches without him.”