Judge rejects plea deal for crime he calls 'an extremely violent act'
Rockland — A Knox County Superior Court judge rejected a jointly recommended plea deal Jan. 28 for a Rockland man accused of assaulting a woman in a locked bathroom, calling the crime an extremely violent act that warrants prison time.
Justice Jeffrey Hjelm said the sentence negotiated by defense attorney Eric Morse and Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Baroody was too lenient.
James O. Beal, 51, pleaded guilty to seven charges from two cases and was given the option of serving five years with all but six months suspended of the sentence. Time that totals nine months or less is served at the county jail. Anything more than nine months is served in prison.
Hjelm said the crime was brutalizing and deserved at least one year served in prison. Morse said he and Beal will be discussing options after the deal was rejected. He has the opportunity to withdraw his guilty plea.
Beal may be scheduled to appear in court again in late February to finalize the matter.
The defendant is accused of locking a woman in a bathroom and kicking her until he fractured her rib in September. She was assaulted for about 30 minutes, according to an affidavit filed by Rockland Police. In October, Beal was ordered to be held without bail after he was arrested for violating conditions of his release.
He was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, domestic violence criminal threatening, criminal restraint, obstructing a report of a crime or injury and domestic violence assault.
In court Jan. 28, the victim said she wants to have contact with Beal.
After being released on $25,000 surety bail from the September incident, Beal went to the victim's apartment and began arguing with her because he was upset about a photograph posted online of the victim and another man, according to a police affidavit. Beal then broke the laptop computer, smashing it on the floor.
She was able to escape the bathroom she was held in, and met a friend in the McDonald's parking lot on Maverick Street, where police were dispatched.
The police report said the victim had severe bruising all over her body, and bleeding scrapes on her knees, elbows and sides. She complained of pain in her ribs and was taken to Pen Bay Medical Center.
Medical professionals told police the victim suffered a broken rib, according to court papers.
When police went to Beal's residence, he said he and the victim had gotten into an argument, and she had left the house. He denied there was a physical altercation. Both Beal and the victim had been drinking, the affidavit stated. When police asked Beal why the victim was bruised and may have broken bones, he said she falls a lot when she is drinking, including downstairs, said court papers.
Courier Publications' reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.